Guards Cooked This Inmate to Death, Then the Evidence Was Burned
Darren Rainey was locked in a scalding jail shower and when he came out, his skin melted off. The wait for an autopsy took years. The wait for justice continues.
For a man who died in a shower, officials were in a hurry to cremate his body.
Miami cops showed up at the doorstep of Andre Chapman in 2012 with news: His younger brother Darren Rainey died after “he collapsed in the shower” inside Dade Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida.
Chapman didn’t even know his schizophrenia-stricken brother had been moved to Miami.
And while he was forced to come to grips with the sudden loss, Chapman said he was already being pushed by a Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s officer to cremate his brother’s remains.
“I asked the man, ‘What does his body look like?’ He says, ‘It looks fine,’” Chapman told The Daily Beast.
“This was before I found out he was put in the shower and scalded to death.”
After getting that news, Chapman called the same official who had prodded him to quickly cremate his brother—in other words, destroy the evidence.
The window to exhume Rainey’s body and perform an independent autopsy was closed once his corpse was cremated.
Chapman could only go off the officer’s word.
“After I found out I called him again: ‘Do you remember what I asked you?’
“And this time he had amnesia or something. He didn’t remember,” Chapman said.
According to a preliminary medical report, his brother’s 50-year-old body was far from “fine.” The report noted that Rainey’s body temperature when it was pulled without a pulse from the correctional facility’s shower was a volcanic 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Mr. Rainey was burned over 90% of his body, skin was hot/warm to touch and skin comes off when touched,” a note from the medical report included in Chapman’s federal lawsuit filed on Nov. 5, 2014, against the Florida Department of Corrections said.
The Miami Herald, whose years-long work by Julie K. Brown uncovered Rainey’s suspicious death, reported Friday he apparently suffered no “thermal” injuries, or burns, on his body, according to law enforcement sources. Instead, the medical examiner ruled the cause of death as “accidental” as a result of “complications” from schizophrenia, heart disease, and “confinement” in the shower back on June 23, 2012.
That’s all that Chapman knows about what happened to his brother, medically speaking, because it’s taken an unbelievable three years for the medical examiner’s office to complete their report on Rainey’s death. Now that it’s finally finished, Chapman has been barred from learning about the results.
“I’m deeply bothered, man,” Chapman said. “They’re playing a game here. I’m just in the dark with this now. They don’t want to come clean.”
When the death certificate came it might as well have been written in wingdings.
“I have never gotten an autopsy; and on his death certificate it’s ‘death unknown.’”
Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Director of Operations Darren Caprara told us that the open criminal investigation has hamstrung their ability to be forthcoming.
“We don’t comment at all until the case is closed,” he said.
But why did it take more than three years to render an autopsy result?
“What the medical examiner does is a deliberate process that involves many agencies and it takes as long as it takes,” Caprara said.
Then he went on after being pressed about how the deceased’s brother has called the agency’s handiwork on Rainey’s post mortem an outright coverup.
“This is what it took to render a decision and to get an actual report that we stand behind… There’s a lot to it. There’s a lot of complicated things going on,” Caprara added.
So far only Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office and the Miami-Dade Police Department have been granted access to the M.E.’s findings.
Officials at both agencies refused to offer anything much in terms of answers.
A state attorney spokesman hasn’t commented.
A detective at the Miami-Dade Police Department emailed a statement refusing to offer video recordings of Rainey’s fatal shower as it would breach security and “depicts the death,” which is protected by Florida privacy law. The autopsy will remain shielded until the state attorney completes a document they called a “close out memo.”
The autopsy report purportedly cleared correctional officers Roland Clark and Cornelius Thompson of rigging the shower because it was “excessively” hot on the day he died and—according to the Miami Herald—the medical examiner’s autopsy results finds that the two officers had “no intent” to harm the inmate when they dragged Rainey, supposedly covered in feces, into the shower.
A source close to the investigation told The Daily Beast that the incident, while tragic, was an “anomaly” and that it involved two guards at the jail “that made a really stupid decision, but neither one meant to harm or kill Darren Rainey.”
“I think they made a stupid decision and he had health issues that were exacerbated,” the source said.
The corrections officers in question with Rainey’s demise could still get hit with manslaughter charges if the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office finds enough evidence that the steaming two-hour shower was deemed a criminal act.
The Department of Justice is investigating the death, officials told The Daily Beast. Last year, the feds officially began probing the Florida Department of Corrections after a 42-year-old inmate named Bernadette Gregory was found dead, having hanged herself with a bedsheet in 2009.
Both guards are no longer working at the correctional facility, but at least one, a source confirmed, is now a cop.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections said it has not received the M.E.’s findings, but vowed action once they are privy to its findings.
“Upon our receipt and evaluation of this report, the department will act swiftly in initiating all appropriate investigations and internal reviews,” a corrections spokesman’s statement read.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy here has been the wall of silence and the foot-dragging by agencies who have been taking their sweet time to complete a killer shower.
“It all just snowballs into this massive issue because nobody can wrap this up in a timely manner,” a source said. “It allows people’s minds to start racing when it really is just two people doing something stupid and inappropriate that caused this accident.”
The civil lawsuit describes Rainey as a “mentally ill man” who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which “impaired... Rainey’s major life activities.”
Rainey was locked up for cocaine possession, but according to the civil lawsuit, he was also riddled with mental health issues. Rainey was on psychotropic medication “to manage his mental illness” and was having an episode, the lawsuit says, when he was creating chaos.
“Rainey was disheveled and had poor functioning, distorted thinking, and was smearing feces all over his cell,” the lawsuit said, adding days later he smeared his feces all over his cell and also on himself. It was a “manifestation of his serious mental illness.”
Instead of following protocol and notifying mental health staffers to intervene, the lawsuit contends the two correctional officers resorted to “torture and retaliated against a mentally ill inmate on the unit.”
It’s called “shower treatment.” A specific shower stall was apparently “altered or broken” and sprayed “scalding hot water” in a locked area where inmates “cannot control the pre-set water or the water temperature.”
How long an inmate is kept in the shower is determined by the omnipresent guards, the lawsuit states.
“Once placed inside, inmates cannot leave the shower unless released by the officers.”
On this day it was allegedly Rainey’s turn to get the shower treatment.
With Rainey defecating and not in his right mind, Officers Clarke and Thompson “maliciously and sadistically turned on scalding hot water in Rainey’s shower in retaliation for [his] smearing feces on his body and cell,” the lawsuit claims.
The guards apparently taunted Rainey but, according to fellow inmate Mark Joiner, they disregarded Rainer’s screams, before taunting him. “He was crying, ‘Please stop, please stop, please stop,’” Joiner told the Herald.
The last words Rainey ever heard were said to be, “Enjoy your shower.”
Shrieks and screams from Rainey were ignored as he boiled for two hours, the lawsuit claims.
Finally, nurses discovered Rainey “lying on his back on the shower floor” and he was “non-responsive, had no pulse and had no respirations,” he lawsuit says. Nurses tried to resuscitate Rainey, to no avail.
After he was removed, Rainey’s fellow inmate Joiner told the Herald he was handed a bottle of Clorox bleach and told to scoop up “large chunks of human skin.”
When Chapman learned that his brother’s flesh was melted off, he rang the medical examiner’s office to understand the condition of his brother’s corpse before it was turned into a paint can filled with dust.
“This is 400 miles away from me,” Chapman said from his home in Tampa. “It was pretty much they wanting to rush me to get me to do something with him.”
For Chapman, the agony of losing Rainey at the hands of “people we’re supposed to trust” is like a modern form of a lynching.
“It’s like back in the days when minorities was burned alive,” he said. “But then in this world here they put him in a hot shower—which is just as bad.”
Chapman said he wishes the guards could get a taste of their torturous ways.
“How would you feel if somebody put your loved one in a shower and left him there screaming and begging: ‘Let me out! I don’t want to do it anymore!’
“I want you to tell me that face-to-face how you would feel.”
Ever since, the family has been hurting and suffering from being told nothing by authorities.
“I just want to know why there is no justice in this,” Chapman said. “If I go and shoot a policeman they gonna put the manhunt on me. Yet they’re right there doing the bad deed. And they think it’s OK. They don’t got to answer to nobody. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Since learning of the unspeakable, sadistic shower that may have killed his brother, Chapman is determined to make sure the truth is set free.
“All I have is memories,” he said, adding that the authorities, after three years of silence, need “to come clean and step forward and do the right thing.”
Anything less will be insult to what some accuse the guards of committing an unsanctioned execution.
“Bottom line is what they did isn’t what you do to a human,” Chapman said. “They just put him in the shower like he was a dog and euthanized him.
“That’s basically what they was doing. Putting him down.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been amended to clarify which two agencies received the autopsy report.