Footage from a Louisiana prison shows officers choking and restraining an inmate after he allegedly asked for medical attention for coronavirus-type symptoms.
The minute-long video was obtained and published by Buzzfeed News Thursday afternoon. The clip shows 39-year-old Bradford Skinner, who's serving time for violating parole related to a small-quantity drug possession charge, surrounded by one sheriff’s deputy and two guards at the East Baton Rouge Work Release facility, which can house up to 1,500 inmates. The deputy is seen wrapping his hands around Skinner’s throat. Skinner is then forced to lean over a nearby railing as the officers restrain him. About halfway through the video, Skinner appears to go limp on the railing before collapsing to the ground.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office later confirmed that the footage is real and that the incident took place on April 4, a day after Skinner says he developed a cough and began to feel pain in his chest.
One of Skinner’s lawyers, William Most, told BuzzFeed News that he informed one prison guard of his symptoms and was given ginger, honey, lemon, and tea to help soothe his pain. When he returned the next day to report that his condition had not improved, he was turned away. He asked for help later in the day from a different guard, who responded by threatening him with a riot incitement charge before calling for backup. Skinner said the last thing he remembers is the prison guard choking him.
“That man is in handcuffs and they’re doing that to that man,” a man is heard saying in the background of the video.
“That man can’t breathe, look,” another says shortly after Skinner’s arms go limp.
Most told VICE News that Skinner was tested for COVID-19 on April 4 and is still waiting for the prison officials to tell him the results.
Prison reform groups and activists have been advocating for Skinner on social media:
“This disturbing video lays bare two dangerous epidemics in our country – police brutality and COVID-19 – both targeting black Americans in alarming numbers,” attorney Sarah Chervinsky said in a statement Thursday. “It is unacceptable for three law enforcement officers to participate in choking an unarmed man into unconsciousness, especially when that man has COVID-19 symptoms and requested medical help."
But Warden Dennis Grimes, who oversees the prison, owned by Louisiana Workforce, told The Appeal that the footage only shows part of what took place that day and that Skinner isn’t the model inmate he’s making himself out to be.
“According to their staff, the inmate in question had attempted to escape by jumping from a moving van and attempted to assault a guard before trying to escape again and incite a riot,” he wrote. “The inmate continued to refuse compliance and then would not move for transportation. He was taken to our facility and checked out by medical and cleared for booking into the prison where he currently remains in good health. Louisiana Workforce staff stated that he will additionally be charged with escape, assault and inciting a riot.”
Skinner, however, claims that these accusations are an attempt to cover up how guards handled the situation.
“I am being punished for being sick,” Skinner said in a statement Thursday. “If this wasn't on camera, it would have been swept under the rug and fell on deaf ears.”
More than 22,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state of Louisiana. As of Thursday, there have been 1,156 coronavirus deaths in the Pelican State, the most of any southern state and fourth highest after New York, New Jersey, and Michigan.
Cover: Screen shot from video