Federal probe can’t determine misconduct in death of pepper-sprayed Brooklyn jail inmate

Shoddy video footage and unclear policies meant that federal investigators couldn’t determine if jail guards acted improperly in the death of an inmate who was pepper-sprayed at the notorious Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, according to a newly released report.

Jamel Floyd, 35, who was serving time for burglary at the Sunset Park jail, died of a heart attack, and had a K2-like drug in his system, during a deadly clash with correction officers on June 3, 2020, an autopsy determined.

Floyd’s mother told the Daily News the day after his death that her son was asthmatic and diabetic, and that she thought it was likely the mace that killed him.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General released the results of a probe into Floyd’s death — but thanks to the poor quality of surveillance footage, the agency “concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find that any [Bureau of Prisons] employees engaged in administrative misconduct in connection with Floyd’s death.”

The OIG’s 16-page report couldn’t determine that the use of pepper spray violated the Prisons Bureau’s policy, and “found the BOP’s policy on the use of [pepper] spray on individuals with certain known medical conditions to be less than clear.”

The investigation also couldn’t get a clear answer on why Floyd went two days without getting an anti-schizophrenic medication renewed after it expired shortly before the incident.

Federal prosecutors didn’t pursue criminal charges against any jail staff after the probe.

Floyd was already in solitary confinement on June 3, 2020, when he started screaming and busting up his cell during a “medical or mental health crisis,” according to a 2021 federal lawsuit filed by his mother.

“I need medical attention!” he yelled, according to the suit. “I can’t breathe. Someone is trying to kill me.” The guards ignored his pleas for hours, and though a jail psychologist briefly spoke with Floyd, the talk was never recorded in the his medical chart, according to the lawsuit.

About 40 minutes after the psychologist’s visit, Floyd broke the sink in his cell and used a piece of mental to smash a hole in his cell door window, the suit recounts — bringing corrections officers rushing to the scene, some wearing riot gear.

He told an officer he had chest pains and they responded by blasting pepper spray through the door slot, then put him in a restraint chair instead of immediately giving him cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the suit alleges.

Video footage of the clash didn’t offer any clarity into what happened, according to the inspector general report.

“The [inspector general’s] review of the institution’s video footage did not enable us to determine what occurred prior to and after the time the [pepper] spray was used, and whether Floyd charged out of the cell or crawled out on his knees because the [Prisons Bureau] staff that had responded to the cell block were surrounding the cell, thereby limiting what could be seen on the video,” according to the report.

None of the jail staff brought along a portable camera, which they’re required to do “as soon as feasible,” according to the report.

“Limited available video evidence did not allow us to observe the use of [pepper] spray, Floyd exiting his cell, or the force used to subdue Floyd,” the report continued.

Floyd was held in isolation after he was hospitalized for an eye injury he suffered from an earlier clash with jail staff. He was quarantined before he was returned to the general population because of COVID-19 protocols, the report states.

The MDC, which a federal judge once described as an “ongoing disgrace,” once housed Ghislaine Maxwell and R. Kelly.

In October 2021, defense lawyers described wretched conditions at the jail, including no water, spotty electricity, no hot food and low staff levels that fuel dysfunction. The MDC suffered a blackout during a cold spell in winter of 2019, and the deaths of four inmates in custody since 2020, including Floyd.

Representatives for the Bureau of Prisons did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.