- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

BALTIMORE — Eight correctional officers were fired after the death of a detainee who was beaten during an altercation with officers at a state-run jail, state officials said yesterday.

The firings were announced nearly a month after the fatal beating of Raymond Smoot, 51, at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, which has been criticized recently for its overcrowded conditions.

“This department does not and will not tolerate unnecessary or excessive use of force,” said Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

One of the eight dismissed officers was a lieutenant, the most senior officer in the tier where Smoot was beaten. Six others were correctional officers of two different ranks, and another was a probationary employee who will not be retained. State officials declined to identify them.

Initially, the state suspended six correctional officers soon after the beating.

A criminal investigation into Smoot’s death is continuing.

“The preliminary investigation is finished, but there are certain pieces of evidence that aren’t in yet, and that’s why technically it isn’t closed yet,” said Mark Vernarelli, a corrections spokesman. Preliminary findings have been turned over to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.

No charges have been filed yet. The state medical examiner’s office has classified Smoot’s death as a homicide.

Not all of the officers had been notified of their firings yesterday afternoon, Mr. Vernarelli said, although Smoot’s family was informed.

The FBI has opened a separate civil rights investigation into Smoot’s death.

State officials have not commented on what caused the altercation that led to Smoot’s death. But A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney representing Smoot’s family, said Smoot was trying to talk a jail guard into letting him make up missed exercise time moments before the altercation.

Smoot had a history of disciplinary problems at the facility, jail officials have said.

Smoot, who was being held on a theft charge, died at a Baltimore hospital May 14, the night of the beating.

Central Booking is where arrested adults in Baltimore are identified, fingerprinted and photographed before they have a hearing before a court commissioner. The facility, which opened in 1995, was designed to process up to 45,000 people annually but handled 100,000 last year.

For months, inmates have failed to get court hearings within 24 hours of their arrest, as required by law. That prompted a judge to issue a court order in April to release them if they don’t get a hearing in the required time.

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