Remarks Prepared for Delivery by ADIC Diego G. Rodriguez
The following remarks were delivered by New York Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez on June 10, 2015, in connection with the beating death of an inmate at Rikers Island.
In the early morning hours of December 19, 2012, correction officers Brian Coll, Byron Taylor, Anthony Torres, and others at Rikers Island were alleged to have been involved in, or witness to, the assault of inmate Ronald Spear.
After Spear demanded to see the doctor on staff and was denied access based on availability, a verbal confrontation arose between him and Officer Coll, eventually leading to a physical altercation.
Several inmates in the infirmary looked on as Officer Coll allegedly hurled profanities at Spear, verbally abusing him after the prisoner had been restrained by officers at the facility. Officer Coll also allegedly punched Spear before delivering a series of kicks to his head. Mr. Spear died in the prison hallway following this confrontation.
As Spear lay on the hard prison floor, moaning in pain during his last moments of life, Officer Coll delivered a chilling sentiment to his victim: “Remember that I’m the one who did this to you.”
Officers Coll, Taylor, Torres, and others, in part or in whole, are alleged to have planted evidence and made false statements to authorities. Officer Torres ultimately disclosed the attempted cover-up to federal investigators, pled guilty earlier this week to obstruction of justice offenses, and is cooperating with the government.
The vast majority of law enforcement officials serve their communities with honor and integrity. But when an officer’s conduct exceeds the permissible use of force and violates a person’s civil rights, the foundation of our democracy is threatened.
Protecting civil rights is among the FBI’s top priorities, and we are the lead federal agency in charge of investigating color of law abuses. In fact, in 2012—the year in which this incident occurred—nearly 42 percent of the FBI’s total civil rights caseload involved crimes of this nature.
Today, we hear the call of Spear and other victims whose constitutionally protected rights have been abused and violated.
We remember their collective plea for justice.
And we vow never to forget our obligation to remove from the criminal justice system those who do not uphold the tenets of the legal system.
Many thanks, as always, to our partners in this and so many investigations: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara; Chief of the Public Corruption Unit, Arlo Devlin-Brown; Co-Chiefs of the Civil Rights Division, Lara Eshkanazi, and David Kennedy; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brooke Cucinella; and Jeannette Vargas; the New York City Department of Correction, Investigative Division; and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
I would also like to thank and congratulate the investigative team that worked together to address corruption in New York: Steve Braccini, criminal investigator from the Southern District; FBI Special Agents Vanessa Tibbits and Rocky Warden; and Supervisory Special Agent James Barnacle for their work on this important investigation.