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Suspect in prison beatings commits suicide, authorities say

Former Department of Corrections captian James Kirkland, who authorities say was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Kirkland was one of six correctional officers arrested and fired from their positions at the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley in North Florida in September in connection with a prison beating.
Former Department of Corrections captian James Kirkland, who authorities say was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Kirkland was one of six correctional officers arrested and fired from their positions at the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley in North Florida in September in connection with a prison beating.

CHIPLEY — A former correctional officer charged in connection with a prison beating took his own life Saturday, authorities reported.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at the Quarterhouse Lane residence of former Department of Corrections (DOC) employee James Kirkland. They found the former DOC captain dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Kirkland was one of six correctional officers arrested and fired from their positions at the Northwest Florida Reception Center in September in connection with a prison beating.

Five other officers — Sgt. William Finch, Sgt. James Perkins, Sgt. Robert Miller, Sgt. Christopher Christmas and Sgt. Dalton Riley — were charged with malicious felony battery on an inmate. Kirkland, who was a superior officer, faced additional charges of official misconduct.

Video from the prison showed 31-year-old inmate Jeremiah L. Tatum, serving a seven-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking, being slammed, face first to the concrete floor by Finch and Riley while Tatum’s hands were restrained behind his back and his ankles restrained. The three other officers then jumped on Tatum and pinned him to the ground, according to arrest records.

The alleged incident occurred in August.

After his arrest, Kirkland was given a $25,000 bond, which he posted, resulting in his release. Kirkland also faced two counts of official misconduct for orchestrating the incident and then allegedly pressuring the officers to sign fictitious reports.

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