MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) — Two Florida prison guards are under arrest, accused of beating an inmate at a Florida prison earlier this year.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials, which made the arrests, said the alleged attack happened in February.
Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan, 37, was charged with aggravated battery, failure to report and tampering with evidence in the beating of inmate Shurick Lewis at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City.
Correctional Officer Donald Dwight Sims, 21, was also charged with aggravated battery and failure to report the crime.
According to a press release issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the guards were accused of beating Lewis while they moved him from a holding cell to a confinement cell.
The guards had cleared the area of other inmates and took Lewis, 41, to a small area with no video surveillance before allegedly administering the beating.
A nurse saw Lewis, whose eye was swollen and who was bleeding from his nose and mouth and sent him back to his cell where he was found unresponsive several hours later by guards on a later shift.
Crews too the inmate to a local hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and facial fractures, according to the release.
Jernigan told Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents he used force after the inmate lunged at him, and Sims, who was hired in October, told the investigators Lewis “fell from his bunk,” according to the release.
After the beating, Jernigan, who worked for the department for six years, ordered other inmates to clean up Lewis’s cell and throw away his bloody clothes.
“The Florida Department of Corrections has absolutely no tolerance for the behavior and actions taken by these individuals,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones, who asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Feb. 15th beating.
The guards, who were put on administrative leave following the assault, were fired Tuesday, according to Jones.
“We will continue to take quick and decisive actions against those involved in abuse, neglect or misconduct of any kind and will cooperate fully with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney to ensure that any employee engaged in this behavior is held accountable,” Jones said.
The arrests come as the agency grapples with reports of prisoner abuse and allegations of cover-ups of inmate deaths, including two who died after being gassed with noxious chemicals by guards and another who died after allegedly being left in a scalding shower.
(The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)