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Miami federal inmate died after running into concrete wall, says union rep for guards

·4 min read

A federal inmate who may have been high on drugs threatened to slug a correctional officer before being pepper sprayed, and then he ran directly into a concrete wall — an impact that led to his death from a head injury, according to sources familiar with the incident at a Miami lockup.

Drew C. Sikes, who was arrested in March on charges of shooting his assault rifle at Everglades National Park rangers and police officers, died at the Miami Federal Detention Center on June 16, according to a Bureau of Prisons website. The site does not indicate the nature of his death, and BOP officials have not responded to requests for comment.

Two sources told the Miami Herald that Sikes was outside his cell that afternoon and refused an order to return to it. Sikes confronted the correctional officer with his fists raised, and then an FDC nurse tried to intervene and bring him back to his cell, the sources said. But Sikes threatened the correctional officer again and the guard pepper-sprayed him, they said.

Sikes dashed wildly toward the stairwell on the seventh floor of the FDC tower and smashed into the concrete wall, the sources said. He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where the 37-year-old inmate died.

“Based on the early investigation, it appears the correctional officer was not at fault and that the inmate’s injury was self-inflicted,” said Eric Speirs, the union representative for the correctional officers who work at the 1,000-plus inmate FDC building near downtown Miami. He said a video surveillance camera captured the incident.

Speirs added that the smuggling of drugs, including the synthetic marijuana K2, and a shortage of correctional officers on duty have been problems at the Federal Detention Center and may have contributed to the circumstances surrounding the inmate’s death.

A lawyer representing Sikes’ family said they have been left in the dark by federal authorities about the nature of his death and were upset about the union representative’s comments.

“It is stunning to me that the family of Drew Sikes has not been called but the union representative feels it is appropriate to make a statement about the way he died,” said attorney Brad Sohn. “If that’s the case, then show us the video.”

Sohn also said the family’s expectation is that the investigation into Sikes’ death be “transparent, and “if there is any wrongdoing that the wrongdoers be held accountable.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was prosecuting Sikes, declined to comment, referring a reporter to the Bureau of Prisons. Sikes’ assistant federal public defender did not respond to a request for comment.

Sikes’ death is being investigated by the Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI. The FBI regional office declined to comment Tuesday.

Inmate deaths at the Federal Detention Center are unusual, though there have been a handful in recent years, including suicides, Speirs said. Inmates detained there are usually awaiting trials or, after their convictions, are being transferred to a federal prison facility.

Sikes, formerly of Palmetto Bay, was taken into custody after a violent standoff with park rangers and Miami-Dade police in late March. He surrendered following tense negotiations in which he encouraged them to kill him, according to an FBI criminal complaint.

“F--- yeah, come get me,” Sikes, who was carrying an AK-47, shouted at the rangers and police. “I want you guys to kill me.”

Sikes was ordered detained at Miami FDC before trial because he was found to be a danger to the community. He was facing a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and possibly up to 20 years.

In March, Sikes was initially arrested on a felony domestic violence charge of aggravated assault with a firearm on his wife, but he was released on bail by a Miami-Dade judge with an order to stay away from her.

Sikes had been holding his wife hostage for four days, threatened to kill her and struck her in the face in the Mahogany Hammocks section of the Everglades National Park on the afternoon of March 28 before she got away and called the rangers to come to her rescue, the complaint says. That led to a search for Sikes, who was driving a white van, and the standoff in the Flamingo Park area.

According to the FBI complaint, both park rangers and Miami-Dade police arrived in marked vehicles to the wooded area where they believed Sikes to be and then used a loudspeaker to communicate with him. They identified themselves as law enforcement and directed Sikes to exit the woods.

At that point, the rangers and officers heard gunfire and felt rounds traveling over their heads, despite officers’ continued commands that Sikes cease fire and emerge from the woods, according to the complaint filed by federal prosecutor Manolo Reboso. After an hour of negotiations, Sikes emerged from the woods and was arrested.

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