Activists Demand Answers After 33-Year-Old Black Man Dies Just Hours After Being Arrested In D.C.

ANGOLA PRISON, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 14, 2013:  
A prisoner's hands inside a punishment cell wing at Angola prison.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, and nicknamed the "Alcatraz of the South" and "The Farm" is a maximum-security prison farm in Louisiana operated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. It is named Angola after the former plantation that occupied this territory, which was named for the African country that was the origin of many enslaved Africans brought to Louisiana in slavery times.

This is the largest maximum-security prison in the United States[with 6,300 prisoners and 1,800 staff, including corrections officers, janitors, maintenance, and wardens. It is located on an 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) property that was previously known as the Angola Plantations and bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River.

(Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Activists Demand Answers After 33-Year-Old Black Man Dies Just Hours After Being Arrested In D.C.

Jamaal Byrd was taken into custody on September 30 on suspicion of selling marijuana.

Published November 20, 2019

Written by Paul Meara

Jamaal Byrd, 33, was reportedly arrested on September 30 on suspicion of selling marijuana at a Washington D.C. restaurant, and just hours later he was found slumped and unresponsive in his jail cell.

Now, activists in the area are demanding answers as officials investigate the tragic sudden death. Organizers with Black Lives Matter D.C. say Byrd was on his way to sign up for a job training program when police took him into custody.

According to the Washington Post, Byrd was transported to the District’s Central Cell Block in the basement of D.C. Police headquarters, where he was waiting on initial hearing in D.C. Superior Court. The judge would’ve determined whether he would be free in awaiting trial.

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In the report obtained by the Post, a guard was making his rounds just before midnight on October 1 when he discovered Byrd passed out on his bed. The guard then attempted CPR and Byrd was subsequently rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Byrd’s mother is calling for answers, claiming the death left her family “traumatized.”

“We need answers,” Roxane Johnson, said in a statement released by Black Lives Matter D.C. “My son was in great health — what happened to cause his death while in the custody of the DC Department of Corrections?

“Nothing will bring my son back,” Johnson continued, “but I am demanding to know what happened to my son! He meant the world to me and my family.”

It’s been more than a month since Byrd’s reported passing yet officials with the District’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner say the autopsy results are still pending.

April Goggans, a lead organizer for Black Lives Matter D.C., released a statement in October “demanding public transparency and accountability” in the city’s investigation into Byrd’s death.

Photo: Giles Clarke/Getty Images

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