A 35-year-old inmate detained in a federal jail in New York City died Wednesday after guards pepper-sprayed him and forcibly removed him from his cell, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said.
Jamel Floyd, a Black man, had “barricaded inside his cell” at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and was breaking the cell’s window with “a metal object,” according to a statement released by the BOP.
He was pepper-sprayed and removed from his cell for being “increasingly disruptive” and “potentially harmful to himself and others,” the statement said.
When medical staff at the jail responded to the situation, they found Floyd unresponsive and initiated life-saving measures, the BOP said. Staff requested emergency medical services and Floyd was transported to a local hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead, according to the BOP’s statement.
There is no indication that Floyd’s death was coronavirus-related, the BOP said. He had been detained at MDC Brooklyn since October 2019, the bureau’s statement said.
The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been notified, the BOP said. The Marshals Service said it’s referring queries on the matter to the BOP. The FBI did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General announced Thursday that it’s coordinating with the FBI to investigate Floyd’s death.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat whose district includes MDC Brooklyn, called on the jail to maintain all security video footage of Floyd’s unit for review.
“My office will be following up, but the reality is this: change at #MDCBrooklyn is long overdue,” Velázquez tweeted Wednesday. “Whether it is a loss of heat in the dead of winter, inadequate protections against the spread of COVID-19 or this most recent incident, it has become evident this institution is too often unsafe.”
MDC Brooklyn houses about 1,600 male and female inmates, most of whom are awaiting trials and have not been convicted of a crime.
David Patton, executive director and attorney-in-chief of the Federal Defenders of New York, a nonprofit focused on defending impoverished people accused of federal crime, called Floyd’s death “extremely disturbing” and demanded “a full, independent and transparent investigation” into the matter.
“The most important thing right now is to get the facts,” including all of the relevant video, Patton told HuffPost in a statement Thursday.
“The MDC is a brutal place to be imprisoned at any time, but it’s truly horrific right now,” he continued. “People incarcerated there are completely locked down, shut off from their families and loved ones, and living in fear of a deadly disease. We don’t know what happened yesterday, but we need to find out.”
Jamel Floyd’s death comes as nationwide protests against racism and police brutality have erupted in response to the killing of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis last week. There’s no indication that the two men are related.