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Two Years After Mentally Ill Detainee Strangled to Death by Guards, Florida Jail Still Refuses to Release Video

by Kevin W. Bliss

“They [need] to release the tapes,” Secilia Desir said of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), “so I can see how they killed my son.”

But two years after jail guards fatally strangled Kevin Desir, a Black 43-year-old father of two, no video evidence has been made public – even though it was cited by the county’s top prosecutor in February 2022, when he refused to bring charges against any BCSO jail guards involved, saying the tapes showed that Desir’s killing was justifiable.

“They never admit fault, unless you catch them red-handed on camera,” said Mikeco Desir, the victim’s brother.

The video was released to Dr. Daniel Schultz, however. He conducted a separate autopsy for the family after the medical examiner completed the official review. Schultz’s report just became available to the Desirs in November 2022.

Desir was arrested for marijuana possession on January 13, 2021. Because he suffered from mental illness, he was taken to BCSO’s North Broward Bureau (NBB). On January 15, 2021, he appeared to be suffering from a psychotic episode: He refused to eat, was uncommunicative, and responding to some form of internal dialog. Two days later, guards discovered him naked, smearing his own blood on the walls and fixtures in the cell.

They were able to handcuff Desir and bring him out of his cell. When he then became uncooperative, they took him to the floor. Two guards stood on his legs, punching him in the face and Tasering him before dragging him to a restraint chair. There, guard Jeremiah Howard locked his hands around Desir’s throat from behind and squeezed for three minutes. Guard Angela McNeal pepper-sprayed Desir in the face. When he went limp, another deputy noted that he'd become unresponsive, and Howard finally let go. Desir was declared brain-dead on January 26, 202, and he died after being taken off life support the next day.

Incredibly, all of that is in a report of the incident reviews by Broward County state’s attorney Christopher Killoran, who nevertheless ruled out culpability for the guards. He also relied on the County Medical Examiner’s official autopsy report, which stated the cause of death was undermined. In the private autopsy report secured by Desir’s family, however, Schultz said the detainee died from strangulation. He listed the manner of death as a homicide.

BCSO has refused to release surveillance footage, citing the security exemption in Florida’s public records law. Meanwhile, Howard was given a glowing annual review and was commended on his ability to deal with mentally ill prisoners.

Source: The Guardian

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