Teen Dies Mysterious Death in Custody of Florida Prison

by Ayvaunn Penn, Your Black World

Eric Perez who had just turned 18 years old was in the custody of West Palm Beach juvenile detention center when he died at 8:09 a.m. on Sunday, July 10th. The problem is that Maritza Perez, Eric’s mother, received several different accounts concerning why her son died. It appears that she is disturbed because she maintains that her son was healthy and that there was nothing wrong with him. Maritza Perez stated, “There was nothing wrong with my son…He was a very athletic kid. He played football and basketball. He wrestled with his brother. He was in perfect shape.” On the contrary, The Miami Herald reports:

“Perez says she has been given conflicting reports by agency heads about her son’s final hours. She said she was told Eric awoke early in the morning and appeared to be hallucinating, waving his arms frantically and screaming ‘Get him off me!’ Nearby youths sought help from lockup staff, who moved the teen and his mat from a dorm to a day room so he could be more closely monitored. Eric vomited several times, Perez said she was told.

A few hours after Eric became ill, his condition worsened dramatically and lockup administrators called for an ambulance, Perez said she was told. By the time emergency workers arrived, Eric was dead.

At first, Perez said, she was told Eric succumbed to breathing problems. Later, she was told he appeared to have died from an enlarged heart. Then, she said, she was told he may have suffered a stroke.”

While there is video footage capturing Eric’s last moments, members of the juvenile justice administration will not give any details on Perez’s death. Releasing the videotape is out of the question as well because of investigations. Not only that, a Florida state law was recently passed making it illegal for government agencies to release photos and recordings of death or killings to the public. However, The Miami Herald reports, “The law does allow a surviving spouse or other relative to obtain a copy of such records, and Maritza Perez told The Herald she favors the release of any recordings that shed light on how her son died if it would prevent ‘another kid from having to go through what Eric did.'” If Eric’s mother is able to get her hands on the recording, she is able to do whatever she wants with it.

Samahdi Jones, a spokesperson for the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in Tallahassee, refuses to disclose names of any of the employees. She did say, however, that four lockup employees have been suspended while two other employees were fired. Jones released a statement saying, “The DJJ is conducting an intensive review of actions taken by department personnel to determine whether policies and procedures were followed.”

As the investigations continue, 47-year-old Maritz Perez is mourning the loss of her son and searching for answers as to why he died. She says, “They should have taken him to a hospital. Just because he made mistakes doesn’t mean they have the right to take his life away….they took it upon themselves, and left my son on a mat in the dining room, dying.” According to The Miami Herald, “Jones said agency heads do not yet know what caused Perez’s death,” since they are waiting on an autopsy report.

Ayvaunn Penn is a spoken word artist and an award winning writer completing her degree in English and philosophy. For more of her witty-word works click here. To have your original poetry featured by Ms. Penn on Your Black Poets, click here.

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