JASPER — Three Hamilton Correctional Institution officers were arrested Thursday for malicious battery of an inmate and official misconduct by a public servant.
According to reports from the Florida Department of Corrections’ Office of Inspector General, an inmate broke loose and ran through the G dorm at HCI during a search of the inmates’ cells March 3, which led to the incident.
When Sgt. Ethan Burkett, a 24-year-old from Live Oak, gave chase, another inmate pushed him off his pursuit, a report states, which led to Sgt. Coty Wiltgen, a 30-year-old from Live Oak, using chemical agents on the inmate.
The inmate then walked calmly away and laid down on the floor without resistance where handcuffs were applied and he was led out of the dorm by Wiltgen and officer William Shackelford, a 23-year-old from Jasper, as was seen on video.
The report states that after being sprayed with the chemical agents, the inmate showed no aggression or resistance.
In his incident report, Burkett said he did not “use or observe any excessive force.”
Wiltgen said in both an incident report and a Use of Force report that the inmate attempted to head butt him, causing him to force the inmate chest first on the ground, accidentally causing the inmate’s head and face to hit the corner of the sidewalk.
Likewise, Shackelford’s report alleged the inmate was combative and he saw only a “minimal amount of force” used, adding he used no force during the incident.
However, according to the OIG, both staff and inmates said the inmate was kicked and punched by all three officers. Witnesses further said the inmate offered no resistance while being beaten.
The report adds that injuries to the inmate were not consistent with being placed on the ground, hitting his head and face on the sidewalk as was documented in the reports of Wiltgen and Shackelford.
“The FDC has zero tolerance for staff who act inappropriately and contrary to our core values: respect, integrity, courage, selfless service and compassion,” DOC said in a statement. “The FDC Office of Inspector General is responsible for ensuring all reports of misconduct are investigated. Any employee found to have acted inappropriately or illegally faces disciplinary action up to and including dismissal and arrest.
“FDC takes all allegations of abuse or mistreatment of inmates seriously and encourages all inmates and staff to promptly report inappropriate or illegal conduct. The FDC grievance process and an anonymous TIPS line that contacts the FDC Office of Inspector General directly provide inmates every opportunity to report misconduct without fear of retribution.”