MIAMI (AP) — Florida prison officials tried to cover up the death of an ill inmate who was gassed at least three times in a confinement cell as he screamed for help, a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of the man's 12-year-old daughter alleges.
Randall Jordan-Aparo's death at Franklin Correctional Institution in the Florida Panhandle in 2010 was publicized widely amid scrutiny of the Florida Department of Corrections for suspicious deaths.
At the time of his death, the 27-year-old was serving a year-and-seven-months sentence for a credit card fraud conviction, and was classified as a minimum security prisoner.
The lawsuit filed Monday in Tallahassee federal court by Amanda Cimillo, the mother of Jordan-Aparo's daughter, alleges corrections officers killed him and the prison's nurses, doctors and warden conspired to cover up his death.
The death of Jordan-Aparo, who had a hereditary blood disorder, remains under investigation by state and federal law enforcement.
Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady says officials are reviewing the lawsuit and could not comment further because of the agency's open investigation. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida did not return an email seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, Jordan-Aparo had been in the prison infirmary multiple times on the days before his death complaining of breathing problems and other health issues.
The suit claims that a nurse and other prison medical staff concluded he was faking illness, and sent him to a confinement cell where he was gassed at least three times.
Inmates interviewed afterward said they heard Jordan-Aparo screaming "I can't take the gas" and "I need a nurse." The suit claims he was dragged to a shower by guards, where he complained of difficulty breathing.
Jordan-Aparo's body was later discovered in the cell covered in an orange residue from the canned chemical "CNS gas" known as "red devils" in the prison. He was clothed only in a pair of boxer shorts.
"He had a disease which affected his breathing, which we believe makes him a disabled adult. They knew he had this disease," said Ryan Andrews, the family's attorney. "There were other inmates who heard him screaming, begging for help, while he clutched his Bible. When people go to prison, that shouldn't be a fear that they have."
After his death, the suit claims that the warden, Diane Andrews, "instructed that no interviews be conducted of inmate witnesses." Andrews later concluded that use of force against Jordan-Aparo fell within rules governing the use of force, a finding approved by the department's inspector general.
The lawsuit by the inmate's family isn't the only one related to his case. Florida corrections investigators also have alleged cover-ups by the corrections department in separate lawsuits over Jordan-Aparo's death.
After investigations into the abuse of Jordan-Aparo and other inmates by the Miami Herald and other outlets, changes have been made at the Department of Corrections including the firing of nearly 50 prison employees, including several related to abuse allegations.