Inmates: NY Guards Killed Man, Threw Him Down Stairs

Samuel Harrell's family says a lawsuit is coming
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2015 10:19 AM CDT
Inmates: NY Guards Killed Man, Threw Him Down Stairs
An inmate plays cards on his bed in a dementia unit at Fishkill state prison in Fishkill, N.Y., Wednesday, May 16, 2007.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Police say they're probing the death of a black inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, NY, earlier this year, but inmates inside say the case is cut and dry: Samuel Harrell, 30, was murdered by a gang of correctional officers known as the "Beat Up Squad." Based on "strikingly consistent" interviews with inmates, affidavits, and letters, the New York Times reports Harrell—who had bipolar disorder and could be paranoid and depressed—told guards he was leaving the prison on April 21, though he had years left on his drug sentence. A confrontation ensued and Harrell, over six feet tall and 235 pounds, was reportedly thrown to the ground. There, an inmate says up to 20 officers beat him and yelled racial slurs. "Like he was a trampoline, they were jumping on him," he says, adding Harrell didn't try to defend himself and soon became still.

Four inmates say they later heard ranking officer Joseph Guarino tell his colleagues to throw Harrell down the stairs. He fell, wrapped in a bed sheet and mechanical restraints, landing "bent in an impossible position," an inmate wrote. "His eyes were open…but they weren’t looking at anything." A witness wrote that an officer saw him watching and grabbed him. "He then told me, 'You better forget what you saw here if you ever want to make it home,'" an affidavit says. When an ambulance was called, officers suggested Harrell overdosed on synthetic marijuana and went into cardiac arrest, according to medical records. An autopsy report, however, declares Harrell's death a homicide, noting he had no illicit drugs in his system and died of cardiac arrhythmia "following physical altercation with corrections officers." No officers have been punished; lawyers for Harrell's family say a lawsuit is coming. Click for more from the Times. (More inmate deaths stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.