Craig Ridley died in 2017 after corrections officers paralyzed him and left him in solitary confinement for days without access to food. A medical examiner ruled Ridley's death a homicide—yet state and federal prosecutors brought no charges in the case.
An investigation recently released by the Miami Herald sheds further light on the incident, which occurred in 2017—and includes video of officers repeatedly refusing to believe the injured Ridley's claims that he couldn't walk and had been paralyzed. Ridley's death marks the third time in recent years that corrections officers have broken Florida inmates' necks during prison beatings. It is yet another abuse case inside Florida prisons with seemingly no consequences for those responsible.
Craig Ridley was an inmate working in the kitchen at the Florida Department of Corrections Reception and Medical Center, serving a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder charges. According to the Herald, on September 8th, 2017, an altercation occurred in which Craig Ridley was tackled to the ground face-first by corrections officers, dislocating his neck.
"My neck is broke," Ridley told officers shortly after his injury, "I'm paralyzed." According to the Herald, which obtained a 383-page report about the incident, one inmate later claimed that an officer told Ridley, "you're bullshitting . . . You're just trying to get a lawsuit."
After a short medical exam, correctional officers took Ridley to solitary confinement, placing Ridley on the cell's toilet. Ridley shortly fell off it, breaking his nose. The Herald reports that Ridley's cellmate, Moise Cherette, began banging on the cell's door and calling for help—though no staff immediately came to Ridley's aid. Eventually, Ridley was taken to be examined by a prison doctor, who found that Ridley was not injured.
In the coming days, other inmates alerted officers to Ridley's condition. However, the Herald reports that officers and nurses did nothing—walking by Ridley's cell 173 times over five days. "For five days I watch them starve him," Cherette wrote to Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators. "[T]hey ain't feed him or nothing every time they stop he tell them that he can't move the nurse laugh an make jokes and keep going."
According to The Herald, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's report of the incident showed that "At least 11 inmates in his cell block reported that Ridley never moved from his bunk, did not pick up his food trays, and that the officers ignored him and said he was faking."
On September 12th, Corrections Officer Jesse Mallard noticed Ridley's unusual behavior, with FDLE stating that Mallard "stated something did not feel right with how Ridley was acting." The Herald reports that Ridley was again taken for medical examination, after which prison doctors sent Ridley to Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville in the early hours of September 13th, where he was intubated.
Ridley died one month later, on October 12th. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, citing the cause of death as "blunt impact" to the head and neck, a spinal cord injury, and "complications of quadriplegia."
"There should have been criminal charges to come out of this," Aubrey Land, a former investigator with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, told the Herald "There is serious medical neglect, evidence of falsifying documents, and a man that died. It looks mighty bad."
Ridley's death is part of a larger pattern of behavior by guards in Florida prisons. In 2018, inmate Cheryl Weimar was paralyzed from the neck down after prison guards beat her nearly to death. In 2020, a Florida corrections officer brutally beat handcuffed inmate Christopher Howell, breaking his neck and killing him.
"This was an inhumane death caused by an abysmal lack of medical treatment," Diane Ridley Gatewood, Ridley's sister, told the Herald, "it was torture."