Florida Correctional Officers Charged With Falsifying Report About Inmate's Shank

Photo by Tami Jo Urban / Wikimedia Commons
Dade Correctional Institution
Update, 3:30 p.m.: Florida Department of Corrections spokesman Patrick Manderfield says the department plans to terminate the three officers charged in the case. See the full statement, posted below.

Florida inmate Lazaro Galvan was in his dormitory at the Dade Correctional Institution in December 2017 when guards asked him to pack up his things. Galvan left his property at the officers' station so it could be checked for contraband and was taken into confinement.

After the search, Galvan — a 39-year-old Miamian serving time for drug trafficking — was charged with possessing a weapon. Officer Toddra Blake had apparently written up a disciplinary report saying a shank had been found in his property. But during a follow-up investigation, Blake denied writing the report or finding a shank in Galvan's things. Prosecutors now believe three of Blake's fellow officers fabricated the evidence.

The three guards — Capt. Eric Peavey Jr., Sgt. Lizandro Rodriguez, and Officer Ellen Day — each face felony charges of official misconduct and falsifying an official record. If convicted, they could face up to ten years in prison.

Investigators became suspicious of the disciplinary report after seeing it circulate in a lengthy email chain. The report, which appeared to be signed by Blake and Peavey, contained a photograph of a shank allegedly recovered from Galvan's locker. Several versions of the report were circulated among Peavey, Rodriguez, and Day until they were satisfied with the final version. Officials thought this was unusual, because disciplinary reports are typically handwritten or typed and submitted directly to the officer's captain.

Investigators interviewed Blake, who denied authoring the report, and Galvan, whose story was corroborated by surveillance footage and additional interviews with officers. It's unclear why Galvan was targeted, but the State Attorney's Office notes it could have been "a foundation to have inmate Galvan transferred out of Dade CI to another correctional institution."

According to a release from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, "By falsely charging inmate Galvan with possession of a weapon, the charged correctional officers knew, or had reason to know, that Galvan was subjected to segregation from the general population of Dade CI, a loss of visitation, and a loss of privileges available to other inmates."

The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to New Times' inquiry into whether the officers are still employed with the state prison system. Including the three Dade officers, at least ten Florida correctional officers have been charged in criminal cases related to their jobs this month.

Update, 3:30 p.m.: Florida Department of Corrections spokesman Patrick Manderfield released the following statement:

The actions of these officers were inappropriate and do not reflect of the thousands of FDC staff across the state who serve at our institutions with integrity every day. We applaud our Inspector General’s Office and law enforcement partners for their thorough investigation.

Peavey was hired October 2007.

Rodriguez was hired December 2014.

Day was hired August 2005.

The Department is moving forward with their immediate dismissals.