Updated at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, April 19.
The family of an Illinois prisoner is suing prison staff after an alleged fatal beating by guards at the Western Illinois Correctional Center.
Larry Earvin died after an “altercation” with prison staff last May, according to coroner’s records obtained by WBEZ. Earvin had 15 rib fractures and multiple abrasions and hemorrhages. He died from blunt trauma to the chest and abdomen. The coroner ruled his death a homicide.
“In using force against Mr. Earvin, the Defendant Officers intentionally used excessive cruelty toward him for the very purpose of causing harm, and not in a good faith effort to maintain or restore security or discipline,” the lawsuit claims.
Earvin was 65 years old and incarcerated at Western Illinois prison for robbery and was due to be released in September 2018, according to court records and the lawsuit filed by his family.
According to documents obtained by WBEZ, four prison staff members were placed on leave following the incident: Sgt. Willie Hedden, Lts. Benjamin Burnett and Blake Haubrich, and Correctional Officer Alex Banta. According to the the Illinois Department of Corrections, they remain on leave.
In addition to those prison staff, Warden Cameron Watson and Assistant Warden Steve Snyder are named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that violence against prisoners at Western Illinois prison is a common occurrence and Watson and Snyer “failed to take any meaningful action to prevent prisoners like Mr. Earvin from being harmed by officers charged with protecting them."
In court filings, Snyder and Watson denied those allegations.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which represents the warden and assistant warden, did not return calls for comment.
The FBI says it is currently investigating the May incident.
“The IDOC has cooperated fully with federal authorities and, as per FBI policy, we are not allowed to discuss details regarding an investigation,” said a spokesperson for IDOC.
The Department of Corrections has refused to release video and documents about the incident, citing the FBI investigation. WBEZ appealed to the attorney general’s public access counselor, who determined IDOC was not complying with the Freedom of Information Act when it withheld reports about Earvin’s death.
Shannon Heffernan covers criminal justice for WBEZ. Follow her at @shannon_h.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the charges that led to Earvin’s incarceration. He was convicted of robbery.