On January 26, 2021, 55-year-old Michael McDaniel entered the Corrections Reception Center in Orient, Pickaway County, Ohio, to serve a sixteen-month sentence for aggravated assault in Franklin County, Ohio. Jada McDaniel, his sister, said that he was a Black veteran of the U.S. Navy who struggled with drug addiction. “He was coming home in July [Michael had 319 days of jail time credit] so he wasn’t an angry young man who was going to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Jada added.
Unfortunately, Michael McDaniel’s life was cut short within weeks upon entering the diagnostic facility, which processes prisoners to determine their security status before being transferred to another prison.
The Franklin County Coroner ruled that McDaniel’s death was a homicide caused by “stress induced sudden cardiac death.” Details of the autopsy, obtained by the Columbus Dispatch, revealed “blunt force injuries to his head, face, shoulders, wrists, hands, knees, feet, toes and abdomen.”
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol launched an investigation into McDaniel’s death. Initially, the DRC reported that two female prison guards were injured after McDaniel became “combative outside his cell” and “began kicking and punching Officers Judd and Cline.”
However, as the investigation progressed, video footage told a different story. The footage, released by the DRC, showed a “compliant and handcuffed McDaniel” being “shoved to the floor, tackled into a snow bank, and pushed to the sidewalk” at least ten times as McDaniel was being escorted to the infirmary. According to the footage, his “medical exam lasted slightly more than a minute.”
The twelve-week investigation eventually culminated in August 2021 with the firing of seven prison officials: Lt. Bruce Brown, nurse Jamie Dukes, and guards Heath Causey, Jerry Perkins, Joey LeMaster, Kristy Judd, and Sarah Cline.
A month later, Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford declined filing charges against any of the staff or nurses.
McDaniel’s sister hopes that the people involved in her brother’s death will ultimately be held accountable. “My brother was a loving man. He did not beat women and he did not deserve to die that way,” she lamented. That is not likely to happen. After the state prosecutor declined to press charges, the local FBI office also declined to open an investigation claiming there was a lack of intent to kill McDaniel by the guards. Of course, prisons are filled with people convicted of manslaughter which is where people die even though there was no intent by the perpetrator to kill anyone.
Three of the guards, Lt. Brown, and guards Causey and Perkins, had previously been disciplined for either using excessive force against prisoners or not intervening when other staff did so in their presence. Causey had been demoted from lieutenant in October 2020 when he did nothing after being informed a prisoner was planning to commit suicide. Perkins and Brown were also both disciplined in 2017 for using excessive force on prisoners.
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