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Prisoner Death At Garner Ruled Homicide

Published: June 19, 2018 at 12:00 am

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Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner James R. Gill, MD, has determined that the March 25 untimely death of a Garner Correctional Institution inmate, who was engaged in a struggle with prison staffers, was a homicide.

A spokesman for the chief state medical examiner's office said June 18 that an autopsy determined that inmate J'Allen Jones, 31, experienced a sudden death during a struggle and restraint with chest compression, plus pepper spray exposure in a person with hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Pepper spray is an aerosol-based disabling weapon derived from cayenne peppers, which causes the eyes to tear and interferes with breathing. Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, also known as hardening of the arteries, results from the deposition of fat on the inner walls of blood vessels.

State police are investigating the death at the high-security prison for males at 50 Nunnawauk Road.

Asked to comment on the results of the autopsy, state police spokeswoman Trooper Kelly Grant simply said June 18, "The incident remains under investigation."

Karen Martucci, DOC's director of external affairs, said June 19, "We made a formal request for a copy of the medical examiner's report, but we have not received one yet. When a cause of death is determined to be a homicide, that does not mean that there is a criminal element associated with the incident."

Homicide is a broad term that may include murder and manslaughter, or instances of self-defense.

"It will be the state's attorney's responsibility to determine if a crime has occurred. We stand by our original statement that there were no immediate indications that excessive use of force was utilized. The Department of Correction's Security Division will conduct an internal investigation at the conclusion of the state police investigation," Ms Martucci said.

Jones, 31, was serving a ten-year sentence on convictions for charges including first-degree robbery stemming from an incident at a gas station/convenience store in Waterbury in August 2013.

According to a state Department of Correction (DOC) statement which was issued after the death, at about 11:05 am on March 25, Garner's health services staff determined that Jones required treatment and some increased supervision at the prison's in-patient mental health unit. Garner is the state prison that specializes in providing acute mental health care to state prison inmates.

"During escort and placement into [the unit], inmate Jones became noncompliant and combative with staff, and then became nonresponsive. Life-saving measures were immediately initiated and Jones was transported via ambulance to a community hospital, where he was declared deceased at approximately 12:25 pm," according to DOC.

In that March statement, DOC Commissioner Scott Semple said, "The death of an individual under the care and custody of the Department of Correction is a very serious matter, and we are fully committed to cooperating with external law enforcement."

The commissioner added then, "There are no immediate indications suggesting that excessive force was utilized. However, we are in the infancy stage of an active investigation and will respond swiftly and accordingly to any determinations contrary to the initial findings presented."

Jones, from Atlanta, Ga., had been incarcerated since September 2014. He was sentenced in May 2015.

The Chief State's Attorney's office is participating in the investigation into Jones' death.

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Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

“In The Bag” exhibition, on view to September 28
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The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
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Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
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“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
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“The Fox on the Fairway” production by Town Players of Newtown, weekends September 21-October 13
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“The Main Street Replica Project,” launching September 25
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Someday Cinema Series screenings of “The Blues Brothers,” September 30
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Photography display “In Our Rearview Mirror” by Marleen Cafarelli, et al, October 1-30
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“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb” with Tinky Weisblat, October 3
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Newtown Day, October 6
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The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
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Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
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“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
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Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
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The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
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Connecticut Author’s Reading Series, October 21
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Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
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“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
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Pianist Konstanza Chernov, October 28
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Someday Cinema Series double feature screenings of “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” October 29
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Total votes: 2