Charges 4 Missouri Guards Charged With Murder, 5th With Manslaughter, in Death of Black Inmate

Charges: 4 Missouri Guards Charged With Murder, 5th With Manslaughter, in Death of Black Inmate

A complaint filed Friday says that four Missouri prison guards were charged with murder and a fifth was charged with accessory to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a Black man in December who suffocated while being held in a correctional facility while being pepper sprayed and having a mask put over his face.

A news release from Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Locke Thompson says that on December 8, 2023, Othel Moore Jr., 38, was pepper sprayed twice and then put in a spit hood, leg wrap, and restraint chair while the Department of Corrections Emergency Response Team searched one of the housing units for drugs.

Moore was then taken to a different living unit and left for 30 minutes in the hood, wrap, and chair. Thompson said that many people heard him say that he was having trouble breathing. Moore was finally taken to a different part of the hospital, where he was declared dead.

Thompson reported that Moore’s death was due to positional asphyxiation and that the death was registered as a murder. He stated that the events were caught on video by the prison’s security system.

He told The Associated Press, “After sitting down and going over all the evidence, including the dozens and dozens of interviews and reports, we decided that charges were appropriate.”

Andrew Stroth, a lawyer for Moore’s family, said that Moore had blood coming out of his nose and ears.

The Missouri Department of Corrections and especially the Jefferson City Correction Center abuse people based on their race and violates the Constitution, according to Stroth. He also said, “It’s George Floyd 3.0 in a prison.”

Five people are being charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of being an accessory to second-degree assault. They are named in a lawsuit. Bryanne Bradshaw, the fifth guard, is charged with one count of helping to cause the death of another person.

The charge sheet said that Leggins and Case pepper sprayed Moore and Brown covered his face with a mask. The lawsuit said that Varner and Bradshaw put Moore in a situation that made it impossible for him to breathe.

He said that people who are charged with felony murder could spend 10 to 30 years in jail.

The mother and sister of Moore’s hired lawyers and sued the cops and the Department of Corrections on Friday. The lawyers for the Moore family called the Corrections Emergency Response Team “a group that uses coercive measures to brutalize, intimidate, and threaten inmates” in a lawsuit that was given to AP.

In the lawsuit, the lawyers said, “This attack on Othel Moore, Jr. was not an isolated event; it was part of a barbaric pattern and practice that was encouraged by the highest-ranking members of the Missouri Department of Corrections.”

In a statement released Friday, the Missouri Department of Corrections said Moore died in a system of restraints meant to keep him and other prisoners from getting hurt. The department has since stopped using that system.

It was also said by the corrections department that 10 of the people involved “are no longer employed by the department or its contractors” after the criminal probe and its internal review.

The department said, “We will not stand for actions or conditions that put the health and safety of Missourians working or living in our facilities at risk.” To improve security and hold staff more accountable, the department has started putting body-worn cams in restrictive housing units at maximum-security prisons, starting with Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Athel Moore’s sister, Oriel Moore, said that her family never got to see him outside of jail after he was a child, which made their sadness even worse.

“He has been locked up since he was a child, so he won’t get to live his life. He doesn’t even know what it’s like to be an adult,” Moore said. “He had plans.” He wanted to make a positive difference in the world. He’s important. “His life is important.”

Moore was given a 30-year sentence for some different crimes. He grew up in St. Louis.

Thompson said he had heard that only one of the five suspects, Jacob Case, had hired a lawyer, but he couldn’t say who that lawyer was. Friday, a text message asking the corrections officers union for comment was not returned right away.

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