A Florida inmate, who deputies were reportedly warned was suicidal, slit his throat in front of them with a smuggled razor.
Joseph Gazzola, 54, died Friday morning after he repeatedly cut his throat with a half-inch razor in front of two other inmates and three detention deputies at a county jail, said Polk County Sheriff’s department spokesman Michelle Cash. The deputies pepper-sprayed him and screamed for him to stop, she said.
He was ultimately taken to Lake Wales Medical Center, where he died an hour later.
Gazzola probably wrapped the tiny piece of metal in a piece of plastic tucked in his groin, Cash said. He walked through four security systems without setting them off and was about to enter his fifth search checkpoint when he pulled out the razor.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“It was so small they just didn’t see it,” Cash said.
Gazzola was found guilty of resisting an officer with violence and battery of a law enforcement officer the day before, public records show. He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the two felonies.
His son, Richard Gazzola, told the Lakeland Ledger the fight with the police officer “really messed [his dad] up.”
He told the paper his father called him hours before the Friday suicide and warned that he wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the night. Gazzola immediately got in touch with the jail, he said, and reported that his father was suicidal.
Cash confirmed that Gazzola reported that his father was suicidal and said deputies checked on Joseph Gazzola shortly after the call.
“He said he was fine,” she said.
Sheriff Grady Judd told the Ledger it was Gazzola’s responsibility to tell them if he felt like he wanted to kill himself.
The incident will be investigated by the department, as well as the State Attorney’s Office.
“I got nothing but respect for every person who puts on a badge, but something went wrong here,” Gazzola told the Ledger.
If you need help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.