New York City BOP Prisoner Dies After Being Pepper-Sprayed
Floyd was serving a 12- to 15-year sentence for a Long Island home invasion committed in 2007. He was being held at the state-run Sing Sing Correctional Facility when he was transferred to MDC in relation to an ongoing case. Associated Press reporters Michael Sisak and Michael Balsamo said that court records showed that Floyd was not a defendant in any pending federal cases when transferred.
MDC was on lockdown due to protests over the death of George Floyd May 25 and internal aggravation concerning new coronavirus protective measures such as requiring all detainees and prisoners to wear personal protective masks all day. Floyd became aggressive and barricaded himself inside his cell, breaking out the cell door’s window with a piece of metal. In a statement released by the BOP, they said, “He [Floyd] became increasingly disruptive and potentially harmful to himself and others. Pepper spray was deployed and Floyd was removed from his cell.”
Medical staff later found Floyd unresponsive in his cell. They attempted to resuscitate and called for an ambulance. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. The BOP stated that Floyd’s death was not related to the coronavirus. Floyd’s mother, Donna Mays, said Floyd suffered from asthma and diabetes. She said jail officials were aware of his condition. “They maced my son.” said Mays. “They murdered my son.”
BOP Director Michael Carvajal said the incident was being investigated by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz. The medical examiner’s office will perform an autopsy and notification has been given to the federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service for any possible criminal responsibility. Horowitz stated that he would issue a public report of his investigations, but only after those investigations were concluded.
Prisoner rights advocates state that pepper spray is more dangerous when used on people with respiratory problems. And, that its use in prisons lowers the bar when considering whether the use of force is necessary. They want to limit its use and find alternative means of deescalating volatile situations.
The BOP has issued more pepper spray to its guards since a prisoner ambushed and killed a Pennsylvania guard in 2010. Prior to that, all guards had for protection were keys, handcuffs and a radio. The BOP said guards were trained to use their pepper spray only if staff or prisoners were in immediate danger, and then only after attempting to diffuse the situation with verbal commands.
MDC had previously been in the news as the institution that housed the first death attributed to coronavirus in federal prisons.