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No charges for prison guards in 2014 inmate death

Delaware Public Media


Delaware’s Department of Justice will file no criminal charges against correctional officers who it says are responsible for the death of an inmate in 2014.



In a 10-page opinion issued Tuesday, Attorney General Matt Denn’s office says two autopsies found the death of Ronald Shoup a homicide due to multiple blunt force injuries, but that it’d be hard to prove criminal intent in court.


Shoup was taken to Sussex Correctional Institution Feb. 20 last year after showing up to court drunk for a previous DUI charge.


Corrections officials later moved him to solitary confinement after they say he became aggressive and disoriented. Medical personnel also diagnosed him with mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal at that time.


The report says Shoup began pulling out an IV in his arm later that day, prompting prison guards to rush him twice to inject him with a sedative.


During the second incident, the autopsies reveal a guard hit Shoup with a shield and more than one guard put their weight on top of his prone body, causing “crush injuries” that “ultimately lead to his death.”


Shoup had been described as "crouched in a ball, facing away from the door" before guards rushed into the cell.


The report doesn’t discourage Shoup’s family from filing a civil suit and recommends policy and officer training changes for the Department of Corrections. Those include not requiring guards to use the same amount of force needed to subdue a thrashing prisoner versus a passive inmate.


A statement from a DOC spokesman says they’ve made recent changes and will consider the new suggestions, though didn’t immediately reveal which policies have shifted.