Inmate death leads to firing of 3 hospital guards
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts officials have fired three correctional officers in connection with an inmate’s death at Bridgewater State Hospital in 2009.
The guards were fired Thursday after an internal investigation into the death of 23-year-old Joshua Messier, state Department of Correction officials told The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/1u52AUW ). Messier suffered a heart attack after a half-dozen guards strapped him to a small bed at the prison for mentally ill inmates.
Correction Department spokesman Darren Duarte said disciplinary hearings were held over the summer and “revealed that these individuals’ actions violated DOC policy.”
Gov. Deval Patrick put the three officers on paid leave six months ago, following a report by the Globe that the guards violated state laws, regulations and hospital policies while attempting to restrain Messier.
Patrick said at the time that disciplinary hearings should be held for two of the guards — Derek Howard and John Raposo — to determine whether they used excessive force against Messier, who suffered the heart attack after they pushed his chest to his knees while his hands were cuffed behind his back, the Globe reported.
Patrick said the third officer, Sgt. George Billadeau, also should face a hearing for possible inadequate supervision of guards.
Jon Mograss, president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, called the firings “politically motived.”
“The administration needed scapegoats to shift any responsibility it may have had for failures in leadership, training and policy development, and the termination of these officers conveniently served that purpose,” Mograss said in a statement. “That outcome is starkly unfair to the officers and will be challenged vigorously on appeal.”
Patrick fired an assistant deputy commissioner for covering up the results of an internal investigation that faulted Howard and Raposo, and he reprimanded Bridgewater Superintendent Robert Murphy and state Correction Commissioner Luis Spencer.
Spencer was forced to resign in July by Patrick and Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral, who found that Spencer slowed an internal investigation into an unrelated incident in which guards reportedly abused a mental health patient, who survived.
The state settled a lawsuit filed by Messier’s family for $3 million.
Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com