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A former Florida corrections officer has been charged with murder following the beating death of an inmate who has been described as having the “mind of a 10-year-old boy.”
Michael Raymond Riley, Jr., 27, was arrested on second-degree murder charges on Monday in connection to the death of a Lake Correctional Institution inmate in June, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced in a press release this week. Authorities launched an investigation into the inmate’s death on June 18, and have since concluded that the death was a direct result of actions Riley took as a corrections officer, according to the release.
Authorities did not release the victim’s name, but the Miami Herald has identified him as 51-year-old Christopher Howell, an inmate who was serving a four-year sentence at the time of his death. Howell, who was convicted of stealing four phone chargers from a local Target store, was disabled, according to an affidavit obtained by the Herald. One inmate told the paper that Howell had the “mind of a 10-year-old boy.”
Howell, while handcuffed, was allegedly beaten on Thursday as other corrections officers watched for failing to comply with a command, the Herald reports, citing unnamed sources within the prison. Howell was pronounced dead the following day at a local hospital.
In the FDLE release, Mark Inch, the Florida Secretary of Corrections, said that authorities intend to hold Riley and anyone else who misuses their authority accountable for their actions.
“I appreciate the work of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FDC Office of Inspector General for investigating this case and ensuring appropriate action was taken. The Florida Department of Corrections has zero tolerance for the malicious application of force,” his statement reads. “We must work to ensure the safety of both the community and those entrusted to our custody. If an officer acts outside of their authorities and the standards of the Department, they will be held accountable. Our agency is rooted in the core values of respect, integrity, courage, selfless service and compassion and these actions are no representation of the dedicated officers who serve daily with these values at the forefront.”
Following his arrest on Monday, Riley was released from custody on Tuesday after covering $50,000 bail, online jail records show.
Riley was placed on administrative leave after Howell’s death, but was fired on Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reports. He’d held his position since March 2019 and had not been disciplined for any misconduct in the past.
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