Correction Officers Break Inmate’s Neck
(FL) – Florida has had a problem with their prison system for a long time. The newly released video of injured Army veteran inmate, Craig Ridley, is a horrific example. 62-year old Craig Ridley, an electrical engineer, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for aggravated assault and criminal mischief. On September 8, 2017, corrections officers used force on Ridley. Ridley was slammed face-first into the ground by Captain William Jerrels. The impact left Ridley with a broken neck.
Ridley was immediately paralyzed from the neck down. He told the officers he could not move. They did not believe him. Ridley was hauled into a wheelchair and taken to the medical area. Staff examine him. Someone makes the comment, “Your blood pressure and all is fine. You ain’t paralyzed.”
Ridley was placed in a confinement cell. He repeatedly called for help saying he could not move. Officers and nurses ignored his pleas. At first Ridley was with a cell mate. The cell mate told officers that Ridley needed help. He was again taken to the medical area where Dr. Jean Dure said he was fine. This time, Ridley was put in a cell by himself.
He didn’t move from the position he was left in. He didn’t eat any food. It was five days before an officer decided Ridley needed to be sent to an outside hospital. The full video shows that during that time Ridley called for help 170 times. Eleven inmates also begged officers to get him some help.
What Caused the Use of Force?
It’s unclear what happened. According to the Daily Mail, “Ridley was slammed to the ground by Capt. William Jerrels on September 8 after muttering something ‘disrespectful’ to Sgt. John Nettles, who first punched the prisoner in the face.” The video that was released has a different story. In it the officer is setting up an official video record. He states, “Sergeant Meadows was attempting to counsel with him about his attitude. Getting up to go to work for food services this morning, at which time he struck Sergeant Meadows on the left hand side of the face.” It’s not likely that the Daily Mail made up the line about disrespecting out of the blue. So where did it come from?
It is possible that the officer in the video is telling the truth. It’s also possible that he is setting up their cover story after they assaulted an inmate. There is no video of the actual assault. Not the one they claim Ridley made on Sgt. Meadows, nor the use of force against Ridley. This seems strange. Prisons have cameras everywhere. Where were they that no camera was able to capture what happened? The video that was released only shows the aftermath.
Death Ruled a Homicide
When Craig Ridley was taken to the hospital he had to be intubated. He died a month later from his his injuries. “A medical examiner also ruled his death a homicide, listing the cause of death as ‘blunt impact’ and a major spinal cord injury. He also had paralysis of all four limbs, listed as ‘complications of quadriplegia’.”
Slow, Painful Death
Craig Ridley suffered abuse that was no less than torture. Correction officers refused to believe there was anything wrong with him. “[G]uards Sgt. John Nyitray and Officer Daniel Greene told him ‘you’re bulls****ing…you’re just trying to get a lawsuit’ when he said he couldn’t walk by himself.”
Another inmate claims he later saw one of the prisoners on work duty twist Ridley’s broken neck back and forth in front of guards and a nurse at the prison’s urgent care center.
The corrections officers kept insisting that Ridley was faking, but they must have gotten worried when he died. His sister “was first told that her brother had died of cancer in prison – but she didn’t believe and started digging into public records herself.” Ridley is from Missouri. None of the articles say, but I suspect that’s where his family still is and that’s why they didn’t know what was happening.
Investigation by Florida Department of Law Enforcement
An investigation was conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). “The probe found that there was repeated evidence of abuse and neglect, leading to the prisoner’s death.” Investigators believe that officers forged Ridley’s signature on documents. That’s kind of a no-brainer. They also felt officers falsified documents that stated Ridley was eating. Of course someone falsified all of those documents. He was paralyzed from the neck down. He couldn’t sign or eat anything. There were also questions in regards to Dr. Dure’s claims. The doctor “said that he (Ridley) had passed a neurological test, but the FDLE did not find any forms to show that any test had been performed.”
Yet with all that, the FDLE decided not to file charges against anyone. The only consequences anyone faced were policy violations. One officer got an 8.5 hour suspension for not reporting that Ridley wasn’t eating (what about all the other officers over five days who didn’t report it?), and two others got letters of reprimand for using inappropriate language.
As criminal justice expert, David Rembert said, it was “a hell of a cover up.”
Family Files Lawsuit
What happened to Craig Ridley was obviously a wrongful death. To compound it, law enforcement failed the family of Craig Ridley. The family was left with no other option than to file a lawsuit to try to get some kind of justice.