Prison Guards Charged With Murder In Death Of Black Inmate

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Five former Missouri prison guards have been charged for their involvement in the death of a Black inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, per the Associated Press.

38-year-old Othel Moore Jr. died on December 8, 2023 after he was pepper-sprayed, covered in a spit hood and helmet, and restrained by prison guards during what was supposed to be a routine contraband sweep.

According to reports, Moore was initially strip-searched inside his cell, handcuffed, and led outside where he was ordered to face the wall. Moore reportedly followed orders, but the confrontation escalated for reasons that remain unclear. After he was pepper-sprayed, masked, and restrained, Moore was taken to a separate wing and left unattended for 30 mins. He was later taken to the hospital wing where he was pronounced dead.

Former inmate Jordan Seller, who said he witnessed the incident, noted that Moore was compliant with the guards' orders. Seller said Moore only began resisting as guards placed the spit hood on his face.

“Of course he’s refusing this, because there’s no reason for them to put a spit mask on,” Seller said. “He don’t know what’s going on. He can’t see, you know, so they’re grabbing on him trying to put something on his head. He’s fighting it. Well, then they started shocking him with the shock glove.”

Seller said the guards later put what appeared to be “an all-black motorcycle helmet” on Moore’s head.

“Immediately he’s jumping, hopping, and you can hear him screaming, you know, ‘Help! I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, take it off. I can’t breathe. I’m, I’m allergic to mace. I need help.’ And then it gets worse and worse,” Seller said.

“He’s jumping up and down shaking. And, you know, slowly, his screams are getting weaker and weaker,” he continued. “I believe I watched him die before they even took him out the wing."

Justin Leggins, 34, Jacob Case, 31, Aaron Brown, 24, and Gregory Varner, 34, are all facing charges of second-degree assault and second-degree murder in connection to Moore's death. Bryanne Bradshaw, 25, has been charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter.

Moore's family has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

“These charges are historic. These charges are unprecedented. When you hear about what happened, witnesses saw what happened, video evidence shows what happened. It’s George Floyd 3.0 in a prison,” attorney Andrew Stroth said in a statement.

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