Pretrial Inmate Died by Suicide in Miami's Federal Detention Center, BOP Confirms

Miami's Federal Detention Center
Miami's Federal Detention Center Federal Bureau of Prisons
Pedro Rene Gonzalez had been sitting in Miami's Federal Detention Center (FDC Miami) awaiting trial on weapons charges since December 18, 2018. Despite languishing in jail for eight months, Gonzalez never made it to trial: The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) today confirmed to New Times that Gonzalez was found unresponsive in his cell late Saturday evening and ultimately pronounced dead the following day. The BOP has labeled his death a suicide.

"On Saturday, August 24, 2019, at approximately 6:45 p.m., inmate Pedro Gonzalez was found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Miami, Florida, from an apparent suicide," BOP spokespeople told New Times this evening. "Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued. Mr. Gonzalez was transported by EMS to a local hospital where he was subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff on August 25, 2019." BOP spokespeople said the FDC holds 1,016 men and women.

Federal officials said Gonzalez, age 43, was indicted last year for possessing guns and ammunition despite being a felon. If convicted, he faced a maximum sentence of life behind bars. HuffPost first reported his death late this evening.

Gonzalez was indicted last December as part of a massive federal gang bust: He was one of 24 people charged in a 59-count indictment as part of "Operation Havana Ghost," a sting designed to bust a gang led by alleged ringleader Ulysses Cabrera, also known as "Uley" or "Big Cuz," according to court filings. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that Cabrera is on the lam and that the feds are offering a $200,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Per the federal government, Cabrera's gang allegedly trafficked cocaine, crack, and marijuana through Little Havana for years. The December bust seized 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 26 pounds of marijuana, four assault rifles, ten handguns, ten assault rifles, and scores of ammunition rounds. The feds alleged that other members of Cabrera's gang regularly engaged in violent shootouts and that the fighting escalated when one gang member allegedly left to form a rival drug-trafficking enterprise.

But Gonzalez was seemingly a small fry in the grand scheme of things. Though other alleged gang members were hit with charges of drive-by shootings or drug-trafficking, the 43-year-old, allegedly nicknamed "Pete," was simply charged with gun possession and seemingly not tied to many of the gang's more egregious crimes.

Gonzalez's death also bears an eerily striking resemblance to the apparent jailhouse suicide of wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who reportedly hanged himself August 10 inside the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan. Epstein's death, which has launched countless conspiracy theories, also sparked a much-needed discussion about the epidemic of jailhouse suicides in America. According to USA Today, 27 federal inmates died by suicide in the 2018 fiscal year that ended in September, the highest number of jailhouse suicides in the past five years. Since October 1, at least 21 additional federal inmates have killed themselves.

BOP spokespeople did not immediately respond to follow-up questions inquiring as to whether Gonzalez had been placed on suicide watch.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.