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5 corrections officers charged in Jefferson City inmate’s death


Five former corrections officers at Jefferson City Correctional Center were charged Friday with crimes including murder in the December death of an inmate.

And the department that oversees the state's prisons says it is implementing reforms to help prevent future deaths.

Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Locke Thompson unveiled the charges against Justin M. Leggins, Jacob A. Case, Aaron C. Brown, Gregory H. Varner and Bryanne M. Bradshaw, in a news release. They are charged in the death of Othel Moore, 38.

Four suspects are charged with being an accessory to second-degree assault and second-degree murder. The fifth, Bradshaw, is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

On top of those criminal charges, Moore’s family has also filed a Federal Rights Civil Lawsuit. Representatives for the family held a press conference on Friday and called the charges “unprecedented” and a “watershed moment in America” while comparing his death to George Floyd. 

“It’s George Floyd 3.0 in a prison,” Andrew M. Stroth, the managing director of Action Injury Law Group said. “Othel Moore, like George Floyd, was beaten. Othel was actually pepper strayed, they put a spit mask on his face. they put him in the prone position face down, they shocked him with shock gloves. the entire time before his death Othel was screaming ‘I can’t breathe.’”

Moore’s family attorneys called the five officers charged on Friday "a terror squad, who were trying to intimidate other inmates." They say Moore’s death happened in the middle of the day in front of other inmates and they are now demanding the release of the security footage. 

“Those that were sworn to protect and serve inmates killed an inmate,” Steven Hart, a co-counsel from Hart McLaughlin and Eldrige Law Firm said. “They did so with depraved hearts and in a cold-blooded manner.” 

Moore entered prison in 2005 and was serving a 30-year sentence for domestic assault, drug possession, robbery, armed criminal action and violence to a prison inmate or employee. His sister Oriel says the family is still hurting. 

“We haven't saw my brother out here since he was a kid. He won’t get to live his life,” Oriel said. “He doesn’t even know what it is to be a grown man.” 

The Missouri Justice Coalition has said Moore was excessively pepper sprayed by the JCCC Emergency Response Team before his head was covered with a hood, his body was wrapped and he was strapped to a restraint cart. The coalition said Moore was then taken to a dry cell in Housing Unit 8.

Four corrections officers were fired after an internal investigation though their names were not released at the time. The Cole County Sheriff's Department conducted the criminal investigation.

Documents of the final diagnosis of Moore’s remains obtained by ABC 17 News say the cause of death was suffocation after the contents of his stomach got into his lungs.

A probable cause statement says Leggins pepper-sprayed a handcuffed Moore without provocation. Leggins allegedly told investigators that Moore had moved toward him quickly but surveillance video contradicted that story, the statement says.

Case is accused of pepper spraying Moore a second time and putting him in restraints, according to a probable cause statement. Moore's autopsy stated he died from choking on contents from his stomach after being put in the restraint, according to the probable cause statement.

Varner was the head of the CERT team that put Brown in the "wrap" restraint after he was pepper-sprayed, leading to his death, another statement says.

Bradshaw oversaw the housing unit where Moore was put after he was restrained, the statement filed in her case says. She did not have medical staff or anyone else check on Moore until it was too late to save him, according to the documents.

Bryanne Bradshaw (Cole County Jail)

Multiple witnesses heard Moore yelling that he was in medical distress, Thompson wrote in a news release.

The Missouri Department of Corrections said in a statement that it has discontinued the use of the restraint Moore was put in before he died. The department says it "has begun" implementing body-worn cameras in some areas of maximum security facilities, starting with Jefferson City Correctional Center.

"We take seriously our responsibility for creating the safest environment possible and will not tolerate behaviors or conditions that endanger the wellbeing of Missourians working or living in our facilities," the Department of Corrections statement says.  

Bradshaw was in custody at the Cole County Jail on Friday afternoon. The other four were arrested in the Potosi, Missouri, area, Thompson said.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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