Christopher Howell, a Florida man who was in prison after stealing four phone chargers from a Target, was beaten to death by a guard named Michael Raymond Riley Jr., according to State Representative Dianne Hart. Howell, who died on June 19, was 51 years old.
Hart said in a statement that the incident occurred at the Lake Correctional Institution in Clermont, Florida, 30 miles west of Orlando, on June 18. The statement said Howell was taken to a local hospital where he died the following day. The statement continued, “The community is calling for the arrest of Officer Riley and has said that if an arrest does not take place by Monday, June 22, 2020 at 5pm they will be protesting at the State Attorney’s office” in Tavares, Florida.
Hart added that there is video of the incident which should lead to Riley’s firing. “Mr. Riley has been employed with FDC for just a year and was removed from another department because of his behavior,” she said.
The case is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Corrections’ Office of the Inspector General, according to the Miami Herald.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Miami Herald Reports That Howell Suffered a Broken Neck
Howell was beaten while his hands were handcuffed, according to the Miami Herald. The newspaper cited an inmate and a prison officer as saying that Howell was beaten for “refusing a command” from an officer. The Herald reported that two officers watched the beating but did nothing to stop it. Howell suffered a broken neck.
Howell’s page on the Florida Department of Corrections website lists him as deceased. He was sentenced to four years in prison in January 2019 after being found guilty of robbery with a gun or deadly weapon. The incident occurred in September 2018, the Miami Herald reported.
One Inmate Said Howell Was ‘Not Someone Who Could Defend Himself’
The Miami Herald reported that Howell was in prison for stealing four phone chargers from a Target in West Palm Beach and was due to be released in June 2022.
According to the Herald, Howell stole a folding knife worth $8 from a West Palm Beach Home Depot. From there, he went to a Target, where he stole four phone chargers. When a security guard confronted Howell, the suspect gave back two of the chargers. The security officer asked for the other two, to which Howell replied, “I have a knife, man.” Howell pointed the knife at the officer, the Herald reported.
Howell was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, according to the Herald, which also reported that he was listed as “disabled” and as having a “juvenile disposition” on his criminal affidavit. An inmate told the Herald that Howell was a “good kid” and a “chubby dude” with the “mind of a 10-year-old boy” and “not someone who could defend himself.” The same inmate, who the Herald reported is serving 27 years for drug charges and used to occupy a cell near Howell’s, called Riley “an agitator” and said he’d witnessed Riley slap Howell across the face and heard he’d broken another inmate’s ribs in the past.
The Florida Department of Corrections website says 30 inmates have died in the prison since 2014. Two of those, Danny Harrigan, and Joseph Rairick, occurred in 2020. Rairick’s cause of death is still pending. Harrigan died of natural causes, reported The Palm Beach Post.