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Juvenile detention officer arrested for civil rights violations resulting in teen’s death

“By and through this bounty system, Johnson caused, encouraged and induced juvenile detainees, in exchange for rewards and privileges, to forcibly assault.”

Image Credit: Houston Chronicle
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Accused of rewarding inmates for viciously attacking other prisoners, Miami-Dade juvenile detention officer Antwan Lenard Johnson was recently arrested and charged with violating the civil rights of a 17-year-old who died in his custody. After allegedly ordering the other inmates to assault the teen, Johnson rewarded the violent offenders with extra privileges outside of their cells.

“The United States Constitution protects every person in this country, including those who are detained in juvenile detention facilities,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg. “It is an honor and privilege to work with the many outstanding agents and officers who are part of our law enforcement community. These brave individuals put their lives on the line every day to protect us all and make our communities safer. But we are committed to bringing to justice the small minority of law enforcement officials when they abuse their authority and violate the civil rights of another.”

Arrested for a robbery charge on August 28, 2015, Elord Revolte, 17, was incarcerated at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). After mouthing off to Johnson in the cafeteria, Elord was allegedly targeted by the detention officer who passed coded signals along to the other prisoner to ambush the insubordinate inmate in what is referred to as a “honey bunning.”

While working in Module 9 at the JDC on August 30, 2015, Johnson waited until Elord returned before walking out of view and hiding in a supply closet. Under Johnson’s orders, one of the inmates abruptly punched Elord in the face as nearly a dozen other prisoners joined in the brutal attack.

After Elord was sent to the infirmary, Johnson rewarded the attackers by allowing them to watch TV outside of their cells and giving them extra snacks. Johnson reportedly gave a fist-bump to the inmate who initiated the assault.

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Elord was later transported from the JDC to Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida.  On Aug. 31, 2015, E.R. was pronounced dead due to bodily injuries suffered during the attack.

“Officer Johnson had a duty to protect these individuals, but, with deadly consequences, Officer Johnson did exactly the opposite of what he had a duty to do,” U.S. Attorney Greenberg stated during a recent press conference. “Johnson encouraged and induced these detainees to assault [Elord], so that Johnson was obeyed in his authority, not challenged.”

“As commonly utilized by other juvenile detention officers at [the Miami lockup], Antwan Lenard Johnson operated a bounty system in order to help ensure obedience and officer respect,” the indictment says. “By and through this bounty system, Johnson caused, encouraged and induced juvenile detainees, in exchange for rewards and privileges, to forcibly assault” Elord.

“The Department of Juvenile Justice’s primary focus is to ensure the safety and security of all youth in our care, and our entire staff was saddened by the very sudden and untimely death of Elord Revolte,” DJJ Secretary Christina Daly said in a prepared statement.

“It is our expectation that any staff who jeopardize the safety of youth be held fully accountable for their actions, including criminal prosecution. The behavior detailed in the indictment is appalling and inexcusable. In response to today’s findings, the department is taking immediate action to terminate this employee,” Daly added.

On Monday, Johnson was charged with conspiracy to violate Elord’s civil rights under color of law, which resulted in the teen’s death; and deprivation of Elord’s civil rights, under color of law, which resulted in bodily injury and his death. If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison for each charge.

According to the indictment, Johnson was not the only detention officer who participated in offering bounties to inmates in exchange for violently assaulting other inmates.

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