LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas prison officials are investigating why the assault on an inmate who later died from his injuries wasn’t reported to state police for nearly a week, and state police say there was a non-lethal assault on an inmate at another prison that also wasn’t immediately reported.
John Demoret, 25, died Aug. 10, nearly two weeks after he was assaulted at the Tucker Unit prison and a week after troopers learned about the July 28 incident. His death and two disturbances at a maximum security prison, including one where three corrections officers were held hostage by inmates, are the focus of investigations by state police and the Correction Department.
Another inmate was beaten July 13 at Varner. Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said Thursday that the prison system’s internal affairs division told troopers about the incident July 19, six days later. State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said his agency wasn’t told about it until Tuesday, more than a month after it had elapsed.
“We have made it clear to ADC we can do a better job for them and it can help them if the request for investigative assistance comes in a timely manner as soon as practical once the incident is under control,” Sadler said. “The more information you can get in a timely manner, the better the case.”
Graves said in an email the prison system was looking into what happened before Demoret died.
“The department is investigating the factors which led to that delay,” Graves said in an email.
Graves said the inmate in the July 13 incident was returned to the Correction Department after receiving medical treatment and has since been released to parole supervision. He said there’s no current investigation about the timeline for reporting that incident to state police.
Correction Department procedures require the department’s internal affairs administrator or a designee to immediately report certain events to state police, including any death from something other than natural causes, any life-threatening battery, arsons, any escape or serious disturbance.
The incidents are among about two dozen that have happened at Arkansas’ prisons this year under investigation by state police. State Police have 26 open cases involving assault or battery by inmates on guards or fellow inmates, Sadler said. Two of those cases are from 2016 and are awaiting adjudication, while the rest are from this year. Sadler did not have a breakdown of where the incidents occurred or how they compare to last year.
They include two disturbances at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker. In one of the incidents earlier this month, three corrections officers were held hostage for three hours by several inmates who had taken keys and a Taser.
In a July 22 incident at the same prison, a guard fired three warning shots into the air after an inmate and two guards were attacked. State Police have said they were notified immediately about the July 22 incident, but didn’t learn of the warning shots fired until it was reported several days later by the Arkansas Times.
Prison officials have said both incidents began when prisoners managed to escape solitary fenced-in areas during their recreation breaks. The department has said it plans to replace the recreation pens and has taken temporary steps to make them more secure. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he expects disciplinary action will be taken against employees over the disturbances.
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