BALTIMORE — Six guards at a long-troubled jail facility were placed on leave Monday after an inmate was killed in an altercation. An attorney for the man's family said he had been beaten and stomped to death in his cell.
State investigators are looking into Raymond Smoot's death, which was ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner's office.
A guard had trouble getting Smoot back in his cell Saturday night at the state-run Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, authorities said, and he called for backup. A struggle broke out, and 25 to 30 guards were involved, said Archer Blackwell, a spokesman for the guards union.
Smoot, 52, was severely injured and died at a hospital.
Mark Vernarelli, a state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman, declined to release details of the fight. But Warren Brown, an attorney for Smoot's family, said the inmate was "beaten and stomped while in his cell by a number of officers."
"It'll be clear that this institution is operating with an absence of rules and regulations on how to deal with these types of procedures," Brown said.
The Baltimore branch of the NAACP will request an FBI investigation, the civil rights organization said late Monday.
Since 2002, 27 inmates have died at the facility, said state Sen. Verna Jones, who called for a task force to investigate, saying that Smoot's death "illustrates a system that is overwhelmed and broken."
People arrested in Baltimore are brought to the central booking facility to be identified, fingerprinted and photographed before court hearings.
The facility is so overcrowded that last month a judge ordered all inmates held longer than 24 hours to be set free.
Smoot had been in central booking since May 4 on a theft charge, awaiting trial in June. He was initially held on $5,000 bail, which was later reduced. His family said they had intended to bail him out Monday.
Delvonna Smoot, the inmate's niece, said she had seen her uncle's body, and his face was bruised and bloody. "The doctors said they've never seen another human being beat somebody as badly as they beat my uncle, never," she said.
The incident is the latest problem for Maryland's troubled prison system. An inmate died last year after a violent encounter with the prison staff. Another was allegedly strangled in February on a prison bus, leading an inmate to be charged and prison officials to fire three officers.