Ocala, FL- Latandra Ellington, an inmate at Lowell Correctional Institution, was found dead on October 1st, ten days after writing a letter to a family member expressing fear that she would be harmed by a correctional officer.
In a letter to her aunt written September 21st, Ellington identified a correctional officer only as “Sgt. Q” and wrote that “he was gone [sic] beat me to death and mess me like a dog.”
“He was all in my face Sqt. Q then he grab his radio and said he was gone bust me in my head with it…” Ellington wrote. Ellington’s aunt called Lowell Correctional Institution September 30th to relay the information, and Ellington was placed in “administrative confinement” in response to the allegations. She was found dead the next day.
Ellington, a 36-year-old mother of four, was serving a 22 month prison sentence for falsifying tax returns and had seven months remaining before her scheduled release.
An independent autopsy performed on October 4th found that Ellington had suffered abdominal hemorrhaging “consistent with punches and kicks” and the sustained injuries played a part in her death.
Florida DOC has acknowledged that the The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the death of Ellington. Jessica Cary, spokeswoman for Florida DOC, said in a statement that “Ms. Ellington was located in administrative confinement at the time of her death because the Department took seriously her and her family’s concerns about alleged threats to her safety, and immediately took appropriate action to move her to a secure location and investigate the allegations. That investigation is ongoing.”
Attorneys Daryl Parks and Benjamin Crump, along with the NAACP, have requested that the Department of Justice launch an investigation of Ellington’s death. “When you have an inmate saying she feels threatened by a guard and then within 18 hours … she’s found dead, that is something that warrants the civil rights division of the justice department,” Crump said. “It warrants the attention of the Attorney General and that’s why attorney Parks and I sent that letter.”
Ellington’s death marks a second request this year from civil rights groups asking the Justice Department to investigate the death of a prison inmate. In June several groups asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the death of Darren Rainey, a 50-year old mentally disabled prisoner who died in Dade Correctional Institution after being locked in a shower and scalded with water that burned his skin off of his body. As of August, an investigation of Rainey’s death has not yet concluded.