Relative, state representative say incident at Lake Correctional Institute started over cigarettes

Relative, state representative say incident at Lake Correctional Institute started over cigarettes

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — An imnate's relative and a state representative discussed the circumstances surrounding an incident at a prison near Clermont after a video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday appeared to show officers beating an inmate, saying the incident started over contraband cigarettes.

The Florida Department of Corrections said it has launched an investigation into the incident, though has not released the inmate's name.

According to Shantell Grace, the inmate is her younger brother.

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"I got to see him today and he verified it was him," she said.

State Rep. Dianne Hart confirmed the inmate's identity, as well.

"He still has a knot on the left side of his head and his left eye was beet red," said Hart.

The grainy video shows a large group of correctional officers gathered on the prison's lawn as an inmate narrates what he is recording with his illegal cellphone.

According to the person recording the confrontation, it happened last week at Lake Correctional Institution near Clermont.

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He claims the officers are beating up a fellow inmate.

He names the inmate, but Channel 9 is not disclosing the name because the agency has not confirmed the identify of the inmate involved.

The video appears to show officers throwing repeated punches.

Hart demanded to see the inmate Saturday after the video surfaced on YouTube. She said she spoke to the inmate about what happened leading up to the beating.

"He had some cigarettes on him and when the correctional officer called him, he started to run. The gentleman did chase him and he caught him and he Maced him and the inmate continued to run," she said. "So when he caught with him the next time, he Maced him again and told him that he made him chase him, and he was not that happy about it."

The inmate told Hart he did not fight back.

Grace said she hopes investigators get to the bottom of this, because she believes this is not OK.

"You know, you already have to worry about other people around you and what they're going to do to you without having to worry about the guards," she said.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she plans to visit state prisons unannounced because of concerns such as the video.

"Are we upholding our responsibility as a state in ensuring these environments are not abusive, violent and difficult to live in?" she said.

FDOC said it has identified all the officers seen in the video but cannot publicly disclose their identities until it completes its investigation.

The officers will not have contact with inmates during the investigation.

The inmate has been moved to another facility.

FDOC Secretary Mark Inch provided Channel 9 the following statement Sunday evening:

"This video is deeply disturbing. We have zero tolerance for officer abuse or misconduct for any reason. The actions of these individuals will not be tolerated. Our Office of Inspector General has launched an immediate investigation. All officers identified to be involved have been taken out of contact with inmates and will not be allowed to return to full duty until a thorough investigation has been completed. Those found participating in any level of abuse, or failing to properly report abuse, will be subject to administrative and criminal charges."