elderly

Orange County, FL — There’s probably no better example, to highlight the systemic problem our system of justice currently faces, than the following story. An elderly man, William Howard (75), who had never been in trouble with the law before, had a run-in with police after his wife said he “began to act strange.”

Howard was arrested and taken to jail for attacking his wife with a knife. But it’s what happened next which illustrates just how violent the system truly is.

The convergence of mental health issues, crime, and the criminal justice system worked against Howard’s favor following his arrest. Why he wasn’t taken to a mental health facility following the attack is a question which remains to be answered — especially considering the fact that this man with no arrest history did something so outlandish. Nevertheless, Howard found himself an inmate in Florida’s Orange County Jail on November 16, 2016.

Because of his diminished mental state, jail personnel were having a hard time getting Howard to cooperate with their orders. Appearing confused, according to reports, Howard would not come out of his jail cell.

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The corrections officers on the scene worked patiently, it seems, to coax Howard into compliance. They jingled keys and spoke to the man, advising him to come to the sound of the clanging noise. “I’m over here,” a jailer can be heard saying as he shook the keys.” “Come over here,” he implored.

Howard didn’t budge, and so the controversial decision to use force was made. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the wisest of decisions. While Howard appears to be a tall man of formidable stature, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know the man, being elderly, is also quite frail.

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A crew of more than a few jailers entered his cell and grappled with him. But it’s what happened after they controlled him which is reportedly leading Howard’s family to consult an attorney.

After controlling the elderly man, the same use of force procedures were used on him as are used on inmates much younger. He was taken to the ground — but not gently. He was slammed to the ground on his face, an action which the coroner stated led to his death.

According to the autopsy, two vertebrae in his neck were broken, and his spinal cord was crushed. Yet even though the actions of the officers ultimately led to his death, the Orange County district attorney concluded no laws were broken and no jail employee would be criminally charged.

The resolution to Howard’s unfortunate death will likely be determined in civil court, as a result. But to date, no lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Howard’s family.

Attempting to dissect the problems with Howard’s death is difficult, especially since the officers involved have already been cleared of any wrongdoing. Given the nature of Howard’s behavior, in attacking his wife with a knife, it may be that he was suffering from some sort of medical issue. Indeed, it is what all signs point to, especially considering his wife’s description of him acting strangely.

Strokes, manic episodes, schizophrenia and other illnesses can lead someone to carry out an attack on the ones they love the most, even a concussion can create such behaviors.

It’s unclear if Howard’s actions were the result of such a medical condition, nor is it clear that his mental state was evaluated prior to locking him up in jail. What is certain is that submission methods when dealing with an elderly inmate must be reevaluated.

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If there’s a risk a man’s bones can be broken, his spinal chord crushed, and death can be a result, some other method of containment must be employed. More must be done to ensure jailers do not end up being executioners.

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Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine
  • Slartibarfast

    it that was my father they all would get what they deserve !

  • Not pro Israel

    Why are the murderers not dangling from the end of a rope?

  • Liz O’neill

    just how many of these murderous thugs does it take to murder one old man, I bet they were all in fear of their lives from a frail old man having a breakdown. they should all get life. but as usual, they have investigated themselves and found themselves innocent of any wrong doing.

  • Gaylen Anderson

    Why doesn’t this article give the names of the idiots that killed him?

  • Yousaf Haque

    They say that a man after 100 turns into a deadly snake.Officers were only saving the future generations from any possible harm by banging his head against floor (like they do to a snake)

    • Eevie

      i hope you are joking….if not…..what you said is superstitious nonsense.

  • 2.7182818284590

    Another example of why people hate police.

  • PRINCE PURPLE RAIN DELUXE O(->

    That crazy old man deserved it, how dare he have mental issues!

  • Beauford T. Justice

    Move along, people. Nothing to see here. Business as usual. Cops kill man, DA says, “A-OK!” Summbitches.

  • P R O T E C T I O N A N D S E R V I C E

  • I W A S J U S T D O I N G M Y J O B I W A S J U S T O B E Y I N G O R D E R S

  • Leslie Martinez

    The problem here was why was he not in a psych ward? The entry, from what I know (not LEO), is typical when you have someone with a history of violence (he beat and stabbed his wife) and are refusing to comply. And, he should have been examined at his age. But this action is a common occurrence in prison.

  • momjones

    He was in a room with no weapon. Clearly confused. 75 years old. And 4 thugs slam him into the floor. No criminal charges? WTF!!!!! so long as the man is black, white fat asses can bludgeon him to death.

    • palvadore

      Idiot racist! Two of the thugs that kill the black man were BLACK shithead!

  • palvadore

    Cops are here to kill you, not help you. Tell your children. Cops are a municipalities hired murderers – hit men. Fear them, hide from them, never look them in the eye. Like a mad dog, they may take it as a threat and can then legally kill you. Just ask a DA.

    Want your baby shot in the face…call a cop. Want to collect your grandmother’s insurance…call a cop. Want to kill someone in the church choir…call a cop.

    Even if an armed killer is in your home, you have a better chance at survival if you DON’T CALL A COP! Call a Plummer, a mechanic, or a bird watcher but don’t call a cop.

    Unless, of course you want someone near you to die, get raped, or you need a drug connection. Then a cop is a viable option. But, it will cost you $$$.

  • Patricia Oricht

    So, murder isn’t a crime, but not giving him medical attention is “punishable” by termination…but also not a crime. But if an average citizen walked away from a dying person it WOULD be a crime, and so would murdering someone. SMH…the usual bull.

  • Deanna Huston Carpenter

    There needs to be more education and training of these people on how to handle people with diminished capacity due to medical issues or mental illnesses. Why is this continuing to happen?????

  • ’46 one time hippy

    If there is no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government. – Emiliano Zapata