MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Florida corrections officer is charged with battery and official misconduct for unnecessarily pepper-spraying an inmate.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news release Tuesday that the charges were brought against Col. Patrick Riggins of Everglades Correctional Institution.
Rundle says inmate Mazzard McMillan was among several handcuffed inmates who were instructed to get on a dormitory floor in July 2017. Surveillance video showed that as McMillan was complying, Riggins pepper-sprayed him.
“It is very disturbing when a man in handcuffs along with 30 inmates in a confined area are just going about their business and here you have a veteran colonel coming up and pepper spraying him for no reason,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told CBS4’s Peter D’oench.
Fernandez Rundle said McMillian, who was serving time for 2nd degree murder, was defenseless. The surveillance video shows him writhing around on the floor.
“It’s unprofessional. It is abusive and it is shameful to think that people with power and access and the ability can abuse people in an inmate population such as this,” she said.
“It’s very important to realize that the overwhelming majority of corrections officers and police officers are hard-working servants. It’s important to realize that as we celebrate law enforcement week. But every now and then we get an example of someone taking advantage of that power and harming someone who is helpless. We want to encourage inmates to keep coming forward and we want people to realize in this day and age that we are living in a world of social media,” she said. “There are cameras everywhere.”
Investigators also say Riggins told a subordinate to write a false incident report to justify his use of the pepper spray. The report claimed McMillan was trying to slip out of his restraints.
Riggins is being charged with one count of Use of Force/Battery on Detainee, a first-degree misdemeanor and one count of Official Misconduct by a Public Servant, a 3rd-degree felony.
“The actions of officer Riggins were unacceptable and do not represent the thousands of FDC officers who work diligently to ensure the safety of the individuals in our custody,” Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie L. Jones said. “Our department takes all cases of inappropriate and unauthorized force very seriously, and any officer found engaging in this type of misconduct is subject to appropriate discipline,” she added.
The department is in the process of moving forward with Riggins’ dismissal, according to Florida Department of Corrections.
It’s not known if other charges will be filed in connection to the false incident report.