More than four years after the gruesome shower death of Florida inmate Darren Rainey, and following a two-year probe into the incident by law enforcement, prosecutors have declined to charge the four guards involved in the death, with authorities saying that there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
According to the Washington Post, on Friday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released a 101-page report, calling Rainey’s death accidental and clearing the four guards involved.
The report notes that nothing came up in the investigation that met the requirements for filing criminal charges against Sgt. John Fan Fan or officers Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams.
“The evidence fails to show that any correctional officer acted in reckless disregard of Rainey’s life,” prosecutors wrote in the report.
Rainey, an inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution who was serving a two-year sentence on a cocaine charge, died in June 2012. Guards pulled him out of his cell and forced him into a shower stall after he had defecated on himself and smeared feces on himself, the walls of his cell and his bedsheets. Guards reportedly locked the door of the shower stall and then, from the outside, turned on the water, allegedly making it as scalding hot as possible, possibly as high as 180 degrees. Then the guards left him in there, walking away.
Rainey, 50, who battled schizophrenia, could be heard screaming, “I can’t take it anymore,” according to a fellow inmate. However, prosecutors rejected that testimony as “inherently unreliable and therefore not credible,” stating that it was not supported by any other evidence, including video footage from inside the prison.
Almost two hours later, when guards went back to check on Rainey, the inmate was dead, lying on his back in 3 inches of water. Reports noted that his skin had turned red and had begun to peel off, with flecks of it floating in the water next to him.
Investigators said that the peeling of Rainey’s skin, which was identified as a condition called “slippage,” was caused not by the heat of the water but by friction or pressure on the body, which could have been the result of medics attempting to resuscitate him or move him from the shower.
According to the report, Rainey died from a combination of factors, including complications from schizophrenia, an undiagnosed heart disease and “confinement in a shower.”
Medical examiner Emma Lew also ruled out the claim that “temperatures inside the shower room were excessively high,” since Rainey had suffered no burn injuries.
“Placing an inmate who has defecated upon himself in a shower to decontaminate himself is not conduct that is criminally reckless,” prosecutors wrote. “There was no evidence of any intent to harm Rainey.”
The report also did not find any evidence that correction officers would use the hot shower as punishment or torture for inmates, although some had complained of receiving similar treatment in interviews with detectives and reporters.
Milton Grimes, an attorney representing Rainey’s family, told the Associated Press that the family was “disappointed and heartbroken” by the prosecutors’ decision.
“This is not justice for Darren, for his family, nor for the mentally ill who have been subject to similar abuse and mistreatment,” Grimes said.
The family has a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections, which was filed in federal court in 2016. That case is pending.