Polk County

Corrections officer charged with murder following death of inmate at Lake Correctional Institution

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — A correctional officer was arrested on a murder charge on Monday following a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into an inmate’s death at Lake Correctional Institution in June.

Investigators said Michael Raymond Riley Jr., 27, was arrested by Polk County deputies on charges of second-degree murder.

READ: ‘We want accountability’: Lake County protesters demand action after inmate dies following use-of-force incident

FDLE said their investigations showed that the inmate, Christopher Howell, 51, died as a result of actions taken by Riley in his capacity as a correctional officer.

“The Florida Department of Corrections has zero tolerance for the malicious application of force,” Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said in a statement. “We must work to ensure the safety of both the community and those entrusted to our custody. If an officer acts outside of their authorities and the standards of the Department, they will be held accountable.”

READ: Lawsuit filed after man incarcerated at Lake Correctional Institution nearly beaten to death by correctional officers

Investigators have not released details of what happened. Officials said there is a sealed indictment in the case, so most details are not being released.

We know the Howell was supposed to be serving a four-year sentence for a theft and aggravated assault case, but died before he could get out.

After Howell’s death in June, dozens of protesters rallied outside the Lake County Courthouse demanding justice.

READ: 4 teenagers charged with attempted murder after running over Polk County woman

“This inmate was in hand restraints handcuffed behind his back,” Keith Harris, with Florida Justice League, said. “He was so physically seriously assaulted that day. And then … he was left in those conditions to die in his own waste.”

Riley was hired as a correctional officer in 2019 and was placed on leave in June. When he was arrested, the department of corrections fired him.

FDLE said Riley is being held at Polk County Jail.

Stay tuned to Channel 9 Eyewitness News for updates.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.