Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report of investigation regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of inmate Jamel Floyd at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Brooklyn on June 3, 2020, following the use of force by Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) personnel. The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) publicly announced the initiation of this investigation on June 4, 2020 in accordance with DOJ policy to reassure the public that an appropriate federal agency would investigate the death of an individual in federal custody, and announced that, once the investigation was complete, the OIG would publicly disclose its findings to the greatest extent possible, consistent with applicable laws. The OIG completed its investigation and issued its report of investigation to the BOP on October 28, 2022. This redacted report has been subject to a protective order in ongoing civil litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY). As of today, the redacted report is no longer subject to the protective order. The OIG is releasing the redacted report to inform the public of the outcome of the publicly announced investigation.
The OIG, working jointly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, conducted this investigation to probe whether there was evidence of a criminal violation in connection with Jamel Floyd’s death. The investigation found that BOP staff responded to banging and yelling from inside Floyd’s cell. Floyd had removed the sink from the cell wall and water was entering the cell as a result. In addition, Floyd had used a metal pipe to break his cell door window, and he did not comply with instructions from BOP staff. BOP staff deployed Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray into Floyd’s cell, and when Floyd came out of his cell, BOP staff placed him in hand and leg restraints. Shortly thereafter, he became unresponsive. Life saving measures were immediately initiated and continued until New York City Emergency Medical Staff arrived on the scene. Floyd was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, dated November 18, 2020, concluded that Jamel Floyd’s death was accidental, caused by cardiac arrhythmia due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease in the setting of probable proarrhythmic gene mutation, with a contributing factor being recent synthetic cannabinoid use.
Federal prosecutors did not pursue criminal charges and the DOJ OIG concluded there was insufficient evidence to find that any BOP employee engaged in administrative misconduct in connection with Floyd’s death. However, the report details the following observations and concerns:
- Limited Video Evidence. Limited available video evidence did not allow us to observe the deployment of OC spray, Floyd exiting his cell, or the force used to subdue Floyd. We noted that the poor quality of BOP’s video camera footage impacted its value. Further, BOP policy requires that BOP staff bring a portable camera with them “as soon as feasible” when responding to critical incidents such as this and does not specify who is responsible for obtaining a portable camera. None of the BOP staff that responded to Floyd’s cell took a portable camera with them.
- Prescription Renewal. Floyd had been prescribed antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, which expired on May 30. Although the antidepressant was renewed on May 31, the antipsychotic prescription was not renewed until June 2. While there was insufficient medical evidence to find that the failure to timely renew Floyd’s antipsychotic medication played a role in the June 3 events, we nonetheless were disturbed to find that no one we interviewed could explain how this failure to timely renew Floyd’s prescription occurred.
- BOP Policy on the Use of OC Spray. The OIG was unable to conclude that this use of OC spray violated BOP policy. However, we found the BOP’s policy on the use of OC spray on individuals with certain known medical conditions to be less than clear. The policy cautions that using OC spray may be harmful to an inmate with certain underlying conditions, including psychosis, and directs BOP personnel to consult medical staff before such use and to avoid such use on an inmate with one of the listed conditions “unless other means of control have been attempted or deemed likely to be ineffective.” We therefore will be separately issuing a Management Advisory Memorandum to the BOP on this issue.