Miami Guard Charged With Pepper-Spraying Handcuffed Prisoner, Concocting False Report

Miami Guard Charged With Pepper-Spraying Handcuffed Prisoner, Concocting False Report
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A prison guard at Everglades Correctional Institution is facing battery and official misconduct charges after prosecutors say he pepper-sprayed a handcuffed inmate on camera for no reason. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle says that the video evidence is clear and that the guard, Colonel Patrick Riggins, also pressured co-workers to file a false report justifying the incident.

“All individuals in custody should receive proper treatment and respect,” Rundle said in a news release this morning. “The law requires it and our community demands it. The investigation into this incident continues.”

The incident occurred July 27 last year. According to Rundle's office, Riggins had ordered a group of inmates to lie on the floor in a dormitory section of the prison. All were handcuffed. But when Riggins walked past 27-year-old inmate Mazzard McMillan — who, prosecutors say, was "beginning to comply" — Riggins sprayed him in the face.

Then the guard tried to cover his tracks, prosecutors say.

"Later that day, Colonel Riggins directed FDC Captain Lindsay Bethel to compose a false incident report and a false report of force used intended to justify Colonel Riggins’ use of pepper spray on McMillan," Rundle says in a statement. "The reports falsely alleged that McMillan attempted to slip out of his hand restraints."

Rundle has faced regular criticism from local activists for declining to press criminal charges against law enforcement officers accused of brutality. Last month, federal officials charged a state juvenile lockup officer, Antwan Johnson, for allegedly encouraging his teenage inmates to beat up a detainee named Elord Revolte, who died the next day. Rundle's office had investigated the case in 2017 but decided there wasn't enough evidence to charge Johnson; her office's final report found Johnson was trying to stop the beating — the opposite of what federal prosecutors now allege.

After a Pulitzer-nominated series from the Miami Herald looked into the Revolte case, federal prosecutors charged Johnson with orchestrating the beating. Rather than trying to "break up the fight," the feds say, Johnson rewarded the kids who beat Revolte and fist-bumped the one who started the brawl.

Riggins, the Everglades Correctional guard, faces one third-degree felony count of official misconduct and one misdemeanor charge of battery on a detainee. 
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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.