Six former West Virginia corrections officers are facing federal charges in the death of an inmate who was beaten and later died while in custody last year, the New York Times reported.
On March 1, 2022, 37-year-old Quantez Burks, an inmate at Southern Regional Jail in Beaver was beaten by a group of officers less than a day after his arrival and later died.
According to a news release from the Justice Department, an officer called for backup after Burks attempted to push past an officer while he was being moved from a cell to the hallway. The corrections officers then took Burks to an area without surveillance cameras where they assaulted him.
According to the indictment, one officer, Mark Holdren, then instructed the other officers to lie to investigators by claiming that Burks suffered a heart attack and had been fighting with the officers.
The six former officers, Jacob Boothe, 25, Chad Lester, 33, Cory Snyder, 29, Ashley Toney, 23, Johnathan Walters, 35, and Mark Holdren, 39, are charged with conspiring to cover up using unlawful force by omitting material information. Each was also individually charged with various counts of giving misleading or false information to investigators.
Five of the officers, Lester, a former lieutenant, along with Booth, Holdren, Snyder, and Toney, also face charges of making false statements about Burks’ death to the FBI.
The most series charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Burks’ initial autopsy concluded that he died of a heart attack. However, his family later questioned the circumstances surrounding his death after seeing his beaten and bruised body.
Burks’ family paid for a second autopsy which determined the cause of death as blunt force trauma coupled with cardiovascular disease.
West Virginia Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mark Sorsaia said in a November 30 statement that his office, along with the governor’s office and the state’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, had alerted federal authorities about Burks’ death and assisted in the investigation.