2 Florida prison guards accused of beating inmate


LAKE CITY, Fla. (AP) – Two Florida prison guards were arrested in the beating of an inmate that left him with a broken nose and several facial fractures, state investigators said Tuesday.

Correctional Sgt. Michael Jernigan, 37, and Officer Donald Sims, 21, were arrested late Monday in north Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

It was the latest in a string of arrests and firings of Florida prison workers over the past year related to inmate abuse.

Jernigan and Sims are accused of beating 41-year-old Shurick Lewis on Feb. 11 at the Columbia Correction Institution in Lake City.

Lewis was being moved from a holding cell to a confinement cell when witnesses said the guards took him to an area of the prison with no video surveillance. Afterward, Lewis was seen bleeding from his mouth and nose, according to state investigators.

Lewis was first seen by a prison nurse, who sent him back to his cell, according to investigators. But after guards found him unresponsive in his cell several hours later, he was taken to the hospital and treated for the fractures.

Both guards have been fired, and were placed on administrative leave on Feb. 13, the Florida Department of Corrections said.

They are being charged with aggravated battery and failure to report the incident. Jernigan is also charged with evidence tampering.

Jernigan was released from Columbia County Jail on bail Monday night, said Murray Smith, a sheriff’s spokesman. No one answered a number listed for him. Sims was booked into Suwannee County Jail, but details of his bail or release were not immediately available.

“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 (authorities) to ensure that any employee engaged in this behavior is held accountable,” Julie Jones, Corrections secretary, said in a statement.

The two arrests come on the heels of a wide-ranging investigation into three Florida prison workers and alleged members of the Ku Klux Klan who are charged with plotting the killing of a black inmate. All three men — Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, David Elliot Moran, 47, and Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42 — have pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder, according to the Florida attorney general’s office.

Prison system officials also fired 50 employees last year, including several accused of beating inmates.

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