It is, quite possibly, the most disturbing story ever brought to our attention. Inmates, who were jailed in Florida’s Charlotte County Jail, were so disturbed by what they saw and heard while jailed, they can no longer stay silent.
According to their stories, a pattern of abuse and cover-up has emerged at Charlotte County, Florida’s jail. The jail houses male and female inmates, who are kept segregated at all times, unless they need to see the jail’s nurse in the medical wing.
There, female and male inmates are held together in separate cells. Unfortunately, the jail has seen a rash of deaths occur inside the medical wing, as well as in the area where the general population is held. But when someone dies or is mistreated, the public rarely hears the whole story, just the side the jail wants to convey, according to those citizens who’ve witnessed the abuse first-hand.
In 2013, Thomas Robert Andreason (48), a homeless panhandler, was arrested for begging in public and taken to jail. He had been in jail for a few days when he died of natural causes, according to The Charlotte Sun. The Sun reported he “was found dead in his cell.” The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office told the Sun he “became unruly” at 4 am and wouldn’t calm down so they put him in a restraining chair.
By 10 am, corrections officers found him “unresponsive” and he was pronounced dead. But that’s not the whole story, according to those who claim to have witnessed his death. They’re now saying he was murdered, the jailers knew he had died, and only attempted to resuscitate him to prevent a possible investigation which would have led to murder charges being brought against them.
Rodney McGee, a fellow inmate and self-proclaimed witness to the killing said Andreason began complaining of chest pains. Instead of getting him medical attention in the Emergency Room by a trained emergency room physician, McGee said the corrections officers came into his jail cell.
“C.O. Rogers and his partner…went in, told him to calm down, but he kept hollering about chest pains. They went in, they tased him, they sprayed him (with pepper spray), they washed him up, put him back in his cell. He still kept complaining about chest pains, so they put him in the restraint chair.”
McGee said the hollering continued for about two more hours but eventually stopped. The fellow prisoner said he stopped screaming for help with his chest pains because he was “already dead.” McGee said he saw what happened next. The corrections officers came into his cell and removed him from his restraint chair.
“His feet were black, he’d done peed himself, he’d done soiled himself. His lips were blue. He was dead,” McGee said in his online testimony of what happened to Andreason. McGee said he began to shout out to his fellow cellmates to mark the date and time in their minds as they were witnesses to what they considered to be a “murder.”
Posted by Rodney McGee on Monday, May 22, 2017
McGee said he was then threatened by a Sergeant Cisco (spelling unsure) that if he didn’t shut up, “you’ll be next.” It was considered a credible threat to McGee by a man who he considered had just murdered a fellow inmate by ignoring his pleas for help, choosing instead to taser and pepper spray the homeless man.
By this time, the officers knew Andreason had died, but they brought out the resuscitation defibrillator anyway, and went through the motions of reviving a man who had been “dead for hours” according to McGee.
They murdered this man. they refused him medical treatment, and when he begged for medical treatment, they sprayed him, tased him. Then they cleaned him up and he was still begging for medical treatment because of his chest pain. They turned around. They put him in a restraint chair until he died. And they left him there for two hours. Like I said, when they pulled him out, he’d already soiled himself, pissed himself, his feet were black in color and his lips were greyish blue. There was no need for the paddles. The paddles was all an act so the video cameras could show them trying to revive him. But if you would do a close-up of the video cameras…you would see just what I seen…I did watch the whole thing and it was a total act of murder.
Andreason was not the first person to die in the Charlotte County Jail, and he was not the last. The eyewitnesses to their deaths, the inmates, have remained silent. But no longer are they doing so. McGee isn’t alone. Many of his fellow cellmates are now speaking out. And they’re organized.
The following is a first-hand account of the aftermath which documents the death of Gregg T. Ireland, who was arrested for Driving Under the Influence. According to The Herald Tribune, Ireland died in the medical wing of natural causes. Robert Tigro, says the official story is “complete crap” and a cover-up happened. The Herald wrote:
A man died of natural causes while in the custody of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office this summer, the Sheriff’s Office reports. According to a news release, Gregg T. Ireland, 47, of Port Charlotte was arrested on a DUI charge Aug. 22. On Aug. 24 while in the Charlotte County jail, Ireland was involved in a disturbance with another inmate and became combative with deputies who intervened, the Sheriff’s Office reports. Ireland became unresponsive while being restrained and moved, the Sheriff’s Office says. Live-saving efforts were attempted and he was taken to Bayfront Health Punta Gorda, where he died. Following an autopsy and investigation, the manner of Ireland’s death was determined to be a result of natural causes, the Sheriff’s Office reports.
His father, apparently, had already bonded him out of jail and was waiting to pick up his son. “Eight officers beat and tased this man until he was injured to the point where he died,” Rob Tigro said.
“On August 24th, 2015, I cleaned up a murder scene,” said Tigro. “People have died. People have gotten hurt. it’s absolutely horrific what’s going on in Charlotte County Jail,” he said in a Facebook post.
“The officer that was probably one of the top leading instigators in the death of Brett Ireland was officer Michael Burnette,” the ex-inmate claims as he described yet another person who he says was murdered in the county’s jail. “Long before Greg Ireland was killed, they were torturing others in the medical wing of the jail,” he said.
Tigro said he realized the rest of the jail wasn’t as bad as the medical wing because, as he said, “in the medical wing they can get away with telling people you’re crazy. They can take off their name badges and tell you a different name so if you file a grievance they can say it wasn’t them, because you’re crazy and it wasn’t their name.” Tigro said he figured out a way to document the abuse by sneaking pens into the medical wing and record the abuses on paper spoons which he hid until he was able to get out of jail.
“I kept all this stuff documented and I carried it with me through the jail,” he said lamenting the fact he has not been able to get anyone to take his allegations of murder, abuse, and torture seriously.
Tigro claims the corrections officers worked together, planning their defenses “word for word” so they could continue to get away with the abuses. Little did they know, Tigro said he wrote down everything they said so he could provide testimony about the alleged abuses going on in the jail. “There was some stuff going on in the day but it wasn’t as bad as some of the stuff that goes on at night,” Tigro claimed.
The former inmate said Ireland had been taken to jail on a felony DUI arrest. “There was blood everywhere. There was taser wire all over the place. The first and second floor was just covered in blood and taser wire…I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into when I was going in there. I wasn’t even supposed to be there because I was going to court that morning,” he said, still traumatized by the scene.
Tigro says he fears retaliation for speaking out but feels he must. “I walk into the pod, medical pod C1. It was just how I described it. There was screaming from some of the cells about the officers being murderers…some people were so scared they couldn’t even come to the door to take their food. These people are out there. They know what happened,” he said.
“I could see the blood stains from where they let his head hit the ground repeatedly as they drug him from the top floor down the stairs and there was blood and hair in the stairs,” he said. “There was no call for it. There was none,” he concluded.
Speaking directly to Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Pummel Tigro said, “Seriously, you got trained, quality, professional officers who are killing and torturing people. I know you got rid of Burnette, but there are others. And you know that. I know that. And now the whole rest of the community knows that and you gotta start taking steps to stopping what’s going on.”
Tigro contended corrections officer Michael Burnette was present at the time Tigro says Ireland was killed. He says Rogers and Burnett were serial abusers who often would yell and intimidate inmates into keeping quiet by forcing the inmates to move away from their cell windows so they would not see how they would treat other inmates.
One example of the abuse happened to 57-year-old Mark Kapuscinski. According to NBC News 2, Burnette was fired for laughing at an inmate who was eating his own feces. But Tigro says the real story is that Brunette forced him to do so, a fact which Kapuscinski later relayed to reporters.
Still speaking to Pummel he said, “You gotta start taking steps to stopping what’s going on. Because the officer you fired probably isn’t going to stay in this area. He’s probably going to go to another jail or another police department, and work somewhere else and do the same things again to somebody else’s child, brother, father, and It’s not cool anymore. It’s gotta stop. It was never cool to begin with but it’s gotta stop.”
Tigro said being able to share the horrific story makes him feel a lot better. However, he feels like more must be done. He is calling on anyone and everyone who will listen to his story. Tigro wants to see change happen in hiring processes so the abuses will cease. He added the problem isn’t limited to Charlotte County Jail.
He says the deaths and abuse are systemic in that, “a lot of the guards transfer between the county facility and the state prison.” As the Bradenton Herald reported there have been at least seven criminal investigations into unexplainable deaths at Charlotte Correctional Institution in Punta Gorda, a facility to which fired officers transfer to according to Tigro.
We at The Free Thought Project are in touch with a few other former inmates who say they saw Ireland die and can no longer remain silent. Their stories will be reported in a follow-up to our story.