Central Florida Jail Investigating Violent Inmate’s Death: After deputies claimed he brutally fought custody deputies at the South County Jail, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into the death of the registered sex offender.
The Lakeland Police Department detained Eric Nelson, 46, on December 23 after they were called to a complaint of a probable burglary suspect fleeing from the Taco Bell on US Highway 98 North.
A backpack containing syringes and a baggie containing a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine was discovered by the officer after he caught up to Nelson along the street at a Starbucks parking lot. Nelson admitted to the officers that he “shoots meth” with the needles. He was taken into custody and accused of having methamphetamine and related accessories in his hands.
After being taken to the Sheriff’s Processing Center, Nelson allegedly became upset and yelled at the jail’s employees and the nurses. Nelson claimed that he had recently been released from prison and “hadn’t slept in five days,” adding that “sometimes you have to prove yourself.”
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He was sent to a private holding when medical personnel saw that he appeared to be under the effect of illegal drugs. There, he grew agitated and started repeatedly kicking the cell door. According to the deputies, the medical team decided he would need to be placed in the medical dorm on suicide watch because of his violent behavior and threats to hurt the deputies and other prisoners.
Nelson was subsequently driven to the South County Jail in Frostproof, where he was supposed to be put on suicide watch in the medical dorm. Nelson assaulted deputies upon entering the jail, striking one twice in the face and striking, kicking, and biting others as they attempted to arrest him, the sheriff’s office claimed in a news statement.
The detainee continued to fiercely struggle and resist the deputies despite using a chemical agent spray provided by the agency, which had no effect. Nelson was finally handcuffed, had shackles applied, and taken to a cell where he was laid on the floor so the restraints could be removed. According to the press release, he wasn’t breathing, and deputies discovered it as they were getting ready to leave.
Nelson was taken to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, and medical personnel started CPR immediately. According to the sheriff’s office, Nelson has a lengthy 26-year criminal history dating back to 1996.
These offenses include rape, battery on a law enforcement officer, violently resisting arrest, failing to report a sex offender’s name or address change, being on the run from the law, grand theft, drug possession, and failure to report a sex offender’s name or address change.
The 10th Judicial Circuit Officer-Involved Deadly Incident Task Force, the PCSO Administrative Investigations Unit, and an independent investigation by the Florida State Attorney’s Office are all looking into this incident as per the standard procedure.
The Florida State Attorney’s Office will make the final determination regarding the use of protective action by the deputies. To ascertain the manner and cause of death, the Polk County Medical Examiner will perform the autopsy.