Forgotten Majority

Advocating for the just and humane treatment of those who are incarcerated.


Courtesy First Coast News
Miami Herald
EDT May 5, 2015
Victim Shurick Lewis, 41.

 Victim Shurick Lewis, 41.
  (Photo: FDLE)


LAKE CITY, Fla. — Two corrections officers were arrested after allegedly dragging an inmate to a secluded area of the Columbia Correctional Institution and beating him, breaking his nose and fracturing his face in the process.  According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, correctional officer Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan, 37 and Ofc. Donald Dwight Sims, 21 were arrested for aggravated battery and failure to report after the incident involving 41-year-old inmate Shurick Lewis. Jernigan also faces tampering with evidence charges.

Donald Dwight Sims
In Custody

Donald Dwight Sims

These two officers allegedly beat Lewis on Feb. 11, 2015 while he was being moved from a holding cell to a confinement cell, FDLE says.  The investigation determined that prior to the beating, Jernigan and Sims ordered other inmates out of the confinement cell area and escorted Lewis into an area that is not covered by video cameras.  After the assault, Jernigan told other inmates to clean up the blood, put a new mattress on the bunk and throw away bloody clothes, FDLE said.  Lewis told investigators that Sims “sucker punched” him in the face, then pushed him against the door of the officers’ station.  After the assault, witnesses said, Lewis was bleeding from his nose and mouth and his eye was swollen. Lewis’ blood spatter was later recovered from the area where the attack happened, according to the arrest reports.  

Meanwhile, a nurse summoned to the scene, Christina Shiver, allegedly accused Lewis of lying about what had happened, threatened not to treat him, sent him back to his cell and wrote medical reports corroborating the officers’ story, FDLE said.  Several hours later, he was found unresponsive by officers on the next shift and Lewis was transported to Shands Hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and several facial fractures.  Shiver was not charged. FDLE, however, said the case remains under investigation.  A spokeswoman with Corizon, the company that provides healthcare services at the prison, acknowledged that the incident raised “serious allegations” against the nurse, but she did not say whether Shiver continues to be employed by the company.

When questioned by investigators afterward, Sims told agents that inmate Shurick Lewis had injured himself by falling off his bunk.  Jernigan said he used force after the inmate lunged at him.  But investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement discovered evidence that Jernigan and Sims not only lied about the attack, but that they also ordered other inmates to mop up the prisoner’s bloody cell and dispose of his mattress, bedding and clothes, FDLE said. They never filed an incident report or a use-of-force report, which is required by the Florida Department of Corrections.

Both Sims and Jernigan were fired Tuesday.
“The Florida Department of Corrections has absolutely no tolerance for the behavior and actions taken by these individuals. Effective today, May 5, 2015, the employment of Correctional Officer Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan and Correctional Officer Donald Dwight Sims has been terminated,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones. “We will continue to take quick and decisive actions against those involved in abuse, neglect or misconduct of any kind and will cooperate fully with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney to ensure that any employee engaged in this behavior is held accountable.”

Jernigan turned himself into the Columbia County Jail Monday and Sims was arrested by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Monday night in Live Oak and transported to the Suwannee County Jail.  According to the Miami Herald, Jernigan, 37, is a former U.S. Marine.  This case will be prosecuted by the Office of State Attorney, 5th Judicial Circuit.

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