Video Captures Chaos Inside Florida Jail

Aug. 13, 2013
All at once, the cell doors at the Miami-Dade jail slide open and two inmates pop out with purpose.

All at once, the cell doors slide open. Two inmates pop out with purpose.

One strides down the hallway of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, appearing to hand off or receive a weapon from a man in an adjacent cell.

Moments later, those two inmates, plus another man, all apparently armed with homemade knives, confront a shirtless Kenneth Williams in the corner of a jail corridor. Realizing he's under attack, Williams bolts down the hallway of the top-tier maximum security wing of the West Miami-Dade jail.

As the three pursuers close in, Williams pauses, hitches up his shorts and leaps from the second-story.

The dramatic footage from internal jail surveillance cameras, obtained by The Miami Herald, shows the June 14 security breach that caused all the doors of K-81, a maximum-security dormitory-style wing, to open at once. The surveillance footage has raised suspicions that the inmates knew the doors would be opening, and that someone in the jail system may have triggered the "group release" feature in the jail's new computerized security system.

The video does not show the instant when Williams crashes to the lower level. But it does show Williams howling in pain from a fractured vertebrae and broken ankle, as another inmate, Rafael Andres, comes to his aid, hovering over him to protect the man from would-be attackers.

Williams, the video shows, appears to hand Andres a blade as the injured inmate clings to Andres' calf. Finally, corrections officers swarm the center common area, pushing wandering inmates back into their cells.

Miami-Dade Corrections Director Tim Ryan said Monday that while "we want to be able to trust our staff," the department is investigating the role any officers might have played in the attack.

"It is suspicious," Ryan acknowledged.

Miami-Dade corrections officers pepper-sprayed the attackers and confiscated at least two homemade shanks. Williams, himself a reputed Liberty City gang member, was arrested for possession of a contraband blade.

Prosecutors have the surveillance video and are reviewing the incident.

The airing of the video comes at a sensitive time for Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation, which along with Jackson Health system has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks over complaints of shoddy medical care of inmates.

The U.S. Department of Justice has also been overseeing efforts to reform the long-beleaguered jail system. On Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez toured the county's psychiatric jail ward, which has for years been criticized for subpar care, and which has been the scene of two recent inmate deaths.

Williams, through his lawyer, says jailers delayed taking him to a hospital. A jail nurse -- in a sworn affidavit sent to Jackson Health, which provides medical care for the jails -- alleged Williams spent more than 30 hours in pain because there was no staff available to take him to a hospital.

In the wake of recent turmoil, the head administrator of Jackson's corrections medical services and its lead doctor resigned. Another jail medical services staffer, health services administrator Mary Mites-Campbell, resigned Friday.

Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya is assembling a team to revamp medical care at the jails.

As for the security gaffe, corrections investigators are looking at the computerized control panel that controls access to the sliding doors at TGK, part of an ongoing $1.4 million security upgrade by Black Creek Integrated Systems.

The panel features a group-release button that, in TGK's normal dorm-style housing units, allows for quick head counts of inmates. However, in a maximum-security, one-person-per-cell setting, the feature is not needed, since inmates are not allowed to interact in a common area.

But in an earlier incident, on May 20, the group-release feature was mysteriously activated. Officers on duty insisted no one pressed the button. No inmate brawls broke out that time.

In response, technicians added an extra feature -- after the button is pressed once, officers must confirm on a second prompt that they indeed want all the cell doors to open, according to corrections brass.

Nevertheless, on the night of June 13, the doors opened again. Again, officers said no one pressed the button. They said the control panel lighting stopped at the moment of the malfunction.

A review of the internal computer showed the cause as "operator" error, according to corrections.

The "group release" gaffe has only happened in K-81, Ryan, the director, acknowledged Monday.

Attacked was Williams, who is well-known to law enforcement: He and his twin brother run the violent "New Moneii" gang, which deals dope in part of Liberty City's Annie Coleman housing projects, known as The Rockies, police say.

The twins are believed to have ordered the December 2008 hit of a rival, though they have never been charged in that case. In the shooting, one of the gunmen killed a 10-month-old baby, who was struck by a bullet while perched in his father's lap. Two teenage gunmen were convicted at trial of the boy's murder.

Williams and his brother were arrested after they were accused of threatening the prosecution's key witness, who outlined how the drug operation worked and the murder unfolded.

Williams is set for trial next week on the witness tampering charge.

Corrections officers identified the attackers as Junior Pascal, Jay Stubbs, Quincy Taylor and Richard Holt.

Williams' lawyer, J.C. Dugue, said that most corrections officers are "good, hard-working" but it's hard to imagine someone on the inside was not involved in helping facilitate the attack.

"I cannot believe that someone would be that stupid to put their jobs or their liberty on the line to allow that nonsense," Dugue said.

Copyright 2013 - The Miami Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!