Inmate Death Prompts Calls for Federal Probe of Florida Corrections

October 7, 2014
By Julie Montanaro

An inmate dies in prison one day after family members called claiming a sergeant there threatened to beat her to death.

Florida Department of Corrections records show that Latandra Ellington died on October 1st at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala.

Her aunt says she called the day before to report the threats. Attorneys for the family shared copies of two letters Ellington sent her aunt in the weeks before her death.

In one letter Ellington wrote the guard threatened to "beat me like a dog" and in the other she wrote he threatened to "beat me to death."

Family attorneys Daryl Parks and Benjamin Crump say an independent autopsy done on Saturday found Ellington died - in part - due to abdominal hemorrhaging "consistent with punches and kicks."

They were joined by the NAACP in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Ellington's death. They sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier today.

"When you have an inmate saying she feels threatened by a guard and then within 18 hours ... she's found dead, that is something that warrants the civil rights division of the justice department," Crump said. "It warrants the attention of the U.S. Attorney. It warrants the attention of the Attorney General and that's why attorney Parks and I sent that letter."

"Hold those accountable, one, who made her feel threatened, but two, took her life," Parks said. "She was not sentenced to a death sentence and the Department of Corrections certainly owed her far greater protection than it offered."

Latandra Ellington is the mother of four children - ages eight to 18 - one of whom, attorneys said, is a freshman at FAMU.

According to the DOC web site, she was serving a year and a month sentence for fraud and grand theft.

"It's not right that these four children would lose their mom. It's not right that her mother and father would lose their child," Parks said. "She was was set to get out ... be released from DOC within seven months, so while the trail is very fresh, we believe that a federal investigation is warranted."

An FDLE spokeswoman says it did respond to the scene and is investigating Ellington's death.

The DOC says it is following new guidelines announced last month for investigating unattended deaths.

Its statement says in part: "Ms. Ellington was located in administrative confinement at the time of her death because the Department took seriously her and her family's concerns about alleged threats to her safety, and immediately took appropriate action to move her to a secure location and investigate the allegations. That investigation is ongoing."


DOC Statement on Death of Inmate Latandra Ellington

Tallahassee, Fla -- Latandra Ellington died on October 1, 2014 at 11:20 a.m. at Lowell Correctional Institution. All appropriate procedures were followed and as this was an unattended death, it is currently under active investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This is an ongoing investigation, and any additional details, including reports from the medical examiner are confidential at this time (pursuant to 119.071 (2) (c) Florida Statutes)

Ms. Ellington was located in administrative confinement at the time of her death because the Department took seriously her and her family’s concerns about alleged threats to her safety, and immediately took appropriate action to move her to a secure location and investigate the allegations. That investigation is ongoing.

Secretary Crews said, “The security and safety of our inmates and staff is a priority of the Department. Warden Mazorra notified me of every available detail related to inmate Ellington with a thorough briefing very quickly after the incident, and an investigation was immediately begun. If evidence shows any wrongdoing by any Department staff, knowing the facts as soon as possible will allow us to take any appropriate actions quickly. Our Department should be held to the highest standards, and I have zero tolerance for anything else.”

Jessica Cary
Director of Communications
Florida Department of Corrections



 
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