Florida Department of Corrections inspector Aubrey P. Land was investigating common allegations of prison corruption last year, when he stumbled upon an inmate death that he said later made his skin crawl. Evidence was overwhelming that inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo had been gassed to death in his cell over the course of five hours, Land said. In the days leading up to his death, Jordan-Aparo had implored staff to take him to the hospital, and even threatened to sue the Department for neglect, according to Land. They refused to do so, instead placing him in solitary confinement, where he was sprayed with gas and “left to suffocate in his contaminated cell without medical intervention.” Later, high-level staff and medical providers covered up the death by attributing it to an infection, he alleged.
But when Land attempted to report what he perceived as a high-level cover-up, he and several other colleagues were denied whistleblower status and faced retaliation, according to a lawsuit filed this week against the Department of Corrections.
“Aparo was the victim of force or discipline made either maliciously or sadistically for the purpose of causing harm and for retaliation for threatening to bring a lawsuit,” four investigators claim in their lawsuit. He was found “coated in yellow residue, his face was pressed up against the bottom of the steel door and a Bible was next to his head,” according to the Miami Herald. Jordan-Aparo, 27, had been serving an 18-month sentence for credit card and drug charges.
This death was one of several ghastly incidents first reported by the Miami Herald in 2014. In another, a mentally ill inmate at a Miami-Dade county jail was allegedly placed in a scalding shower with water temperature exceeding 160 degrees as punishment for defecating in his cell. He died in that shower with his skin peeling off, while he begged for help to taunts by prison staff of, “Is the shower hot enough?’’ according to the Herald’s reports. After more than two years of investigation by Miami-Dade police, the medical examiner has still not even reported an official cause of death.
In another incident, an inmate was inexplicably killed during an altercation as officers tried to “extract” him from a cell in the prison’s mental-health unit. And another saw eight corrections officers suspended and one fired after an inmate died in an altercation that started when a female corrections officer slapped him.
Just over the July 4 weekend, 3 more inmates were found dead in questionable circumstances that have spurred state investigations, bringing the total number of Florida inmate deaths now under criminal investigation to ten.
In response to the lawsuit by several investigators who allege retaliation for coming forward about Jordan-Aparo’s death, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) chief inspector general Melinda Miguel told the Miami Herald they are taking “any allegations of abuse seriously” and that there is active investigation into these allegations that will be made public once it is complete. Florida officials also say the FBI and Department of Justice are investigating Jordan-Aparo’s death.
“I’ve done this for 35 years,” said Land of his job as senior law enforcement inspector for the Department of Corrections in an interview with Office of Inspector General staff. “My skin doesn’t crawl often. They killed that damn kid. … This kid went to prison for 18 months and he never made it home because they let him lay there and die.”