Charlotte County prisoner beaten in cell by corrections officers in 2020

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Charlotte Correctional Institution officers are piled on top of prisoner Michel Hernandez, 37, in a cell May 25, 2020. (Credit: Miami Herald)

A prisoner in Southwest Florida was handcuffed, shackled, pinned down and punched by a team of officers in his cell.

A violent, bloody beatdown between a handcuffed prisoner and corrections officers inside the Charlotte Correctional Institution was leaked, and the recording was obtained by Miami Herald.

The inmate in the recording was 37-year-old Michel Hernandez. He is behind bars for a robbery with a deadly weapon.

The first sign of any physical confrontation shows Hernandez fall to the ground as officers pile on top of him.

We do not know if Hernandez fell on purpose or by accident, or if he was tripped intentionally by an officer.

We do know the violence escalates after he goes to the ground.

According to a use of force report also leaked to Miami Herald, Sgt. Dane Edwards wrote, “Hernandez became disorderly dropping his weight to the ground.”

However, former prison officials interviewed by Miami Herald said they saw officers involved step on Hernandez’s shackles to trip him.

“To me it looks like he tripped,” said Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security Specialist. “If he tripped, they don’t know what he’s doing, and they want to stop him from doing anything.”

That’s when officers put a spit shield on Hernandez, which is used to keep inmates from biting.

Hernandez was accused of biting and assaulting officers just before his transfer to Charlotte County.

But that’s not the only violence in the video. Under officers and in the corner of a cell, Hernandez was not visible.

“Now we really can’t see because of what’s going on here,” Kolko said. “They’re talking about punches here. We don’t know where the punches are. A lot of times, punches are to pressure points in the leg, in the arm, not necessarily to the head.”

We can’t see where Hernandez gets hit, but blood becomes visible on the wall of the cell. We asked Kolko how much mobility Hernandez could have at that point.

“You can see he’s got a bellyband here, handcuffs attached to that, so he can’t reach his arms full length,” Kolko said. “Looks like he’s walking in leg irons, which means you’ve gotta take baby steps, not full steps.”

What Hernandez could’ve done is scratch or grab at officers with his hands,” Kolko said.

DOC said a use of force unit reviewed the video, and did an independent law enforcement agency did too, and they found no fault with the corrections officers.

Hernandez was originally sent to prison in 2013 for robbery with a deadly weapon. He later tried to escape.

The recordings made available to WINK News on air were not made available for web.  

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