Maryland Board of Public Works to Pay $500,000 Settlement for Wrongful Death of Prisoner Pepper Sprayed by Police

In Maryland, the Board of Public Works has approved a $500,000 wrongful death settlement for the family of Ifeanyi A. Iko, an inmate who died in 2004 after being subdued with pepper spray at the Western Correctional Institution. According to the state medical examiner, his cause of death was homicide due to the “chemical irritation of the airways by pepper spray,” the use of a mask on the 51-year-old prisoner’s face, and the manner in which he was restrained.

The Nigerian immigrant was found asphyxiated following an altercation with police when he was removed from his cell, handcuffed at the wrists and ankles, put in a spit-protection mask, and sprayed with pepper. Other prisoners who saw the incident say that prison guards severely beat Iko and used three cans of pepper spray on him.

While an Allegany County grand jury did not indict the correctional officers involved in the pepper spray incident, the prison’s lead investigator in the case has admitted that key evidence, such as wet clothing and video footage, were not preserved. Also, two months after Iko died, the state prison commissioner issued stricter guidelines on pepper spray use. Now, officers need a warden or assistant warden to approve the use of the spray and anytime the spray is used, a full report must be prepared within 24 hours.

Iko’s family had filed a $28 million federal wrongful death lawsuit, which will now be dismissed, following the incident on April 30, 2004 in Cumberland. The half a million dollar settlement may be the largest award granted in a Maryland personal injury or wrongful death case involving a prisoner victim.

Pepper Spray

Pepper spray can irritate the eyes, skin, and airways. Burning, tearing, sneezing, shortness of breath, coughing, skin blisters, and vomiting are some of the symptoms that can occur. Concentrated use of this spray can lead to more serious health conditions.

Maryland police officers and correctional officers are not supposed to use excessive force or severe restraint methods when apprehending suspects or prisoners. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be grounds for a Maryland police brutality or wrongful death lawsuit.

State will pay $500,000 in death of prisoner, Baltimore Sun, January 2, 2009
FBI Investigating Md. Inmate’s Death, Washington Post, September 11, 2004
Related Web Resources:
Pepper spray rules tighten, Daily Press, July 21, 2004

Western Correctional Institution

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