The estate of 22-year-old Davon Gillians claims that the Coleman Correctional inmate died after being pepper sprayed, restrained, and neglected.
The family of a Florida inmate has filed a lawsuit against federal prison officials, claiming that 22-year-old Davon Gillians died in a Coleman correctional complex after being repeatedly pepper-sprayed and restrained over the course of two days.
According to The Tampa Bay Times, Gillians’ death on May 19, 2021, was ruled a homicide by the Sumter County Medical Examiner’s office.
In its reporter, the office found that pepper spray use and “prolonged restraint following altercation” were significant contributing factors to Gillians’ death.
Gillians, says the lawsuit, had been remanded to solitary confinement after being involved in an altercation with another inmate—that inmate, says the Tampa Bay Times, had known mental issues and a reputation for inciting violence.
Officers quickly broke up the fight using pepper spray, then took Gillians to a “restraint chair” in solitary confinement.
“On information and belief, it was custom and/or practice at Coleman for officers to place inmates in particular cells for the purpose of inciting violence as a form of punishment,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Gillians’ estate, claims that Federal Correctional Complex, Coleman, employees intentionally denied Gillians food, water, and medical attention—all while the inmate was bound in a “restraint chair” for days.
The complaint alleges that prison staff knew Gillians suffered from sickle cell anemia, a condition which can require daily medication.
Corrections officials only took Gillians to an off-site hospital when he “suffered a further decline in medical status.”
Gillians died upon reaching the hospital; the Sumter County Medical Examiner found that the primary cause of death was a vasco-occlusive crisis caused by sickle-cell anemia.
Randilee Giamusso, a spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Prisons, told The Tampa Bay Times that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
“The BOP is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public,” Giamusso said in a statement. “Humane treatment of the men and women in our custody is a top priority. Allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken if such allegations are proven true, including the possibility of referral for criminal prosecution when appropriate.”
The Post and Courier notes that, while the Bureau of Prisons cannot confirm or deny whether it is investigating the circumstances of Gillians’ death, attorneys for the man’s estate say that the F.B.I. and Department of Justice have since launched independent investigations.