Four Missouri prison guards have been charged with murder, and a fifth with involuntary manslaughter, in connection with the death of Othel Moore Jr, a 38-year-old Black man, in December. According to a complaint filed on Friday, Moore was pepper sprayed, had his face covered with a mask, and was left in a position that caused him to suffocate while in custody at a correctional facility.
The incident occurred on Dec 8, 2023, when a group of guards from the Department of Corrections Emergency Response Team was conducting a sweep for contraband in one of the housing units.During the sweep, Moore was pepper sprayed twice and then placed in a spit hood, leg wrap, and restraint chair. He was then moved to a separate housing unit, where he was left in the hood, wrap, and chair for 30 minutes, despite multiple people hearing him say he couldn’t breathe. Moore was eventually taken to a hospital wing, where he was pronounced dead.
The medical examiner ruled Moore’s cause of death as positional asphyxiation, and the events were captured on the prison’s video surveillance system. Cole County prosecuting attorney Locke Thompson stated, “After sitting down and reviewing all evidence, the dozens and dozens of interviews, all the reports, we determined that charges were appropriate.”
Andrew Stroth, an attorney for Moore’s family, has described the incident as “George Floyd 3.0 in a prison,” and has alleged a pattern of racist and unconstitutional abuse within the Missouri Department of Corrections, particularly at the Jefferson City Correction Center.
The complaint charges Justin Leggins, Jacob Case, Aaron Brown, and Gregory Varner each with one count of second-degree murder and one count of being an accessory to second-degree assault. Bryanne Bradshaw, a fifth guard, is charged with one count of accessory to involuntary manslaughter. Those charged with felony murder could face between 10 and 30 years in prison.
Moore’s family has filed a lawsuit against the officers and the Department of Corrections, alleging that the attack on Moore was not an isolated occurrence but rather a manifestation of a barbarous pattern and practice fostered by the highest-ranking members of the Missouri department of corrections.