By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
When Jarvis Randall was airlifted to Broward Health North, he’d been shot up so thoroughly by a trio of Broward Sheriff’s deputies that the emergency room doctor who pronounced Randall dead noted in his report that the cause was “multiple gun shots too numerous to count.”
Randall, a 30-year-old black man, was killed by three white deputies who unloaded on him inside University Hospital and Medical Center’s mental health pavilion in Tamarac on Dec. 1, 2018. He was there being treated for “severe depression, psychosis,” according to a physician’s diagnostic report written the day Randall was admitted.
“Bullets went everywhere, hitting walls, corridors, ceilings, lights and doorways inside the medical facility endangering the lives of the residents and of course Jarvis Randall,” says a civil rights and negligence lawsuit filed in November in Broward Circuit Court by the dead man’s estate.
The shooting was “a reckless display of force” against someone who “posed no risk of harm to these defendants or anyone else,” the 33-page lawsuit says.
Today, 26 months later, the sheriff’s office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) – which investigates police shootings – and the Broward State Attorney’s Office all remain largely silent about how and why Jarvis Randall was killed. The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office won’t release its autopsy report on Randall because police have put a hold on it until the investigation is complete.
FDLE probe of Jarvis Randall death done in 2019
Yet the principal investigating agency, FDLE, completed its investigation into Randall’s death more than 18 months ago and sent it to Broward prosecutors in June 2019, according to FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. FDLE’s report is not public because the case is listed as active in the event those prosecutors ask FDLE to do additional work, she said.
BSO spokesman Carey Codd did not respond to a request to explain why FDLE could complete its investigation in a matter of months, but BSO internal affairs detectives are still investigating the actions of their own deputies more than two years later.
“To this day I don’t have any police reports despite multiple requests. I don’t have any I.A. [Internal Affairs] files. They won’t even let me view video tapes from the body cams the deputies were wearing, despite multiple requests,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Michael Bernstein, who represents the dead man’s estate. “So, how did three police officers fill Jarvis Randall full of bullets inside a mental hospital? It’s as ugly as it gets.”
A grand jury will review the matter, someday. “The grand jury has been unable to convene since March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our office is working with the chief judge and others to try to resume grand jury proceedings as soon as it is safe and practical to do so,” said Paula McMahon, spokeswoman for new Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor.
Randall was born in Fort Lauderdale and had recently returned to live with his sister while looking for work, said his mother, Angela Randall. Before that he’d been living in Georgia with Angela.
Jarvis had been deeply troubled since his August 2016 release from Florida State Prison where he did eight years for burglary offenses. “I didn’t notice any problems with him until he came home from prison. He was very young when he went in and he was devastated by it,” his mother said.
Angela Randall said one reason she approved the civil suit is “to bring light to the justice system. There needs to be rehabilitation when people come out of these [prison] facilities. They go from one world to another world and they don’t know how to function.”
Named as defendants are Sheriff Gregory Tony, the three deputies who shot Randall – Sgt. Christian Silva, Robert O’Dor and Mitchell Machado – and University Hospital. No apparent disciplinary action was ever taken against the deputies, who are back on the job.
The shooting occurred when Scott Israel was sheriff. Israel is not a defendant, but both he and Tony are accused of “covering up police misconduct by failing to properly investigate” and then listing those investigations “as ongoing long after any actual investigation had ceased,” the lawsuit says. “The de facto policy enabled some deputy sheriffs to falsify reports, give false testimony and create and/or destroy evidence including but not limited to throwdown firearms in order to justify their misconduct.”
Further, the lawsuit accuses BSO under both Israel and Tony of making a mockery of the idea of “community policing.”
“In its early days, community policing was symbolized by BSO deputy sheriff’s interacting with the public in a more friendly and less hostile environment. In recent years, however, the reality of community policing shifted from cooperation to confrontation. Members of the community are seen not as partners but as subject who must succumb to the officer’s command presence.”
By way of example, the lawsuit cites the “combat-ready” appearance of the three deputies as they entered the mental health facility: in military-style pants, heavy ballistic vests, tasers, full gun belts, “including semi-automatic weapons with multiple rounds in the magazine and chamber.”
Jarvis Randall seeks help
The chain of events that led to Randall’s death began when he went voluntarily to Plantation General Hospital at his mother’s urging to get help for his depression. But Randall, who was on probation for five years, was uninsured and allegedly exhibiting aggressive behavior, so the hospital invoked Florida’s Baker Act and transferred him to University’s mental health pavilion on Nov. 20, 2018. The Baker Act allows for the involuntary commitment of persons to mental health treatment centers for up to 72 hours if they are considered a danger to themselves or to others.
But Randall, an unemployed tattoo artist, didn’t seem to be a danger when he arrived at University. “Very pleasant gentleman, not in acute distress,” observed Dr. Nigam Parikh, who examined Randall that day.
Why Randall was still being held at University as an involuntary patient 11 days later – the day he was shot dead – isn’t known. The Broward Court Clerk’s office lists no orders of commitment against Randall and attorney Bernstein said that the hospital has not provided any paperwork showing that Randall voluntarily consented to in-patient treatment after the 72 hours had passed.
In addition to civil rights and negligence counts against University Hospital, the lawsuit includes a single count seeking unspecified damages for false imprisonment.
What is known is that Randall’s father had just died and at 9:30 on the night he was shot Randall had refused his medication and gone to the nurse’s station “and said he wanted to leave,” says a hospital report. Randall threatened to stab someone in the neck if he wasn’t allowed to leave, the report says.
Hospital calls the cops
Rather than letting Randall leave, or apparently using any de-escalation techniques, “Patient was offered medications to calm him and he refused. He walked away and went to his room. Patient came back from his room with what looked like a pencil in his right hand and a shampoo bottle in his left hand. He kept on yelling he wanted to get out,” the report says.
Security was notified after Randall, who stood 5-feet-8 and weighed about 160 pounds, threw the shampoo bottle and punched a light and a fire extinguisher. “The director was notified who advised to call the police,” the report says.
BSO summoned Tamarac Fire Rescue to respond to a “suicide attempt,” according to a paramedic’s report. The report says the paramedic arrived to see Randall “cordoned off by PD in a hallway with multiple officers speaking to the subject…who appeared to be in a state of agitated delirium, making threats towards himself and PD.” The paramedic retreated behind a doorway “and prepared to treat the pt [patient] for agitated delirium.
“When PD opened the doors in attempt to subdue the subject, the subject charged towards PD, ran through non-lethal attempts to subdue him, and multiple officers opened fire,” the paramedic’s report says. BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright told reporters at the time that the non-lethal attempt involved shooting Randall with a “bean bag” out of a shotgun that was intended to disable.
The paramedic’s report makes no mention of a “sharp piece of glass” that police said Randall was holding when he was shot. The lawsuit says Randall was holding a piece of plastic, probably from the broken lighting. “He was unarmed and posed nothing resembling a weapon of any kind,” the lawsuit says.
The paramedic reentered the scene to render treatment. Randall was “unresponsive, prone, handcuffed and bleeding from (both) ears, mouth and nose.” His pulse and breathing were weak. The paramedic called for an air ambulance.
The paramedic “lifted up pt’s shirt to reveal multiple suspected exit wounds to pt’s back.” He reported that in his “head to toe” look he saw a total of 10 gunshot wounds: two to Randall’s upper left chest, two to his upper right chest, three to his upper right arm, two to his abdomen and one to his groin.
Randall was dead on arrival at Broward Health North at 11:46 p.m.