Miami Mom Sues Prison After Son's Death

Mother claims her son was sprayed with chemical agents that brought on a deadly asthma attack

A Miami-Dade mother has filed a lawsuit against the Florida prison system claiming prison guards sentenced her son to death with their actions.

On June 3, 2010, Rommell Johnson died after suffering an asthma attack while an inmate at Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley. He had been sprayed with a chemical agent despite having asthma, which is currently not permitted for some inmates under Department of Corrections guidelines, the lawsuit alleges.

Evelyn Brady, Johnson's mother, claimed in the lawsuit that corrections officers knew about her son's condition for years but ignored protocol. Instead, they sprayed him twice with powerful chemical agents that choked him to death, the lawsuit said.

"Many times he called me and told me he was going to die in that facility because they weren't taking care of him," Brady said at a press conference Monday.

Officials at the state Department of Corrections declined to comment on the issue because of the pending litigation. The lawsuit was filed with the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Tallahassee.

Brady said she hopes the lawsuit forces a change that would exclude all asthmatic inmates from being sprayed with chemical agents in non-emergency situations.

Johnson, 44, was an inmate in the facility from 2004 up until his death. He was serving 45 years in prison for attempted robbery, burglary and assault, according to the corrections website.

"What the department did to Rommell Johnson cannot be ignored or go unpunished," Brady's attorneys Randall Berg Jr. and Kristen Cooley Lentz said in a joint statement.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson had suffered an asthma attack earlier in the day and received medical attention at the jail.

When Johnson was returned to his cell in solitary confinement, prison guards heard Johnson yelling in his cell and decided to discipline him, the lawsuit read. Johnson was alone in his cell at the time, the lawsuit stated.

A guard was then authorized to spray a chemical agent into Johnson's cell twice, the lawsuit continued.

Within 30 minutes, Johnson was dead, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit seeks more than $15,000 in damages in the wrongful death claim.

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