I want to tell you today about a man named Ronnie Brown.
When he was younger, he joined the Marine Corps, and served his country well and faithfully, like a Marine (and good citizen) should.
When he got out of the Marine Corps, he joined the Polk County (FL) Sheriff's Office, and he became my coworker.
He served his community, working at the Sheriff's Office for 20 years and rising to the rank of Detention Sergeant.
In May 2007, Ronnie and two other deputies received our agency's third-highest award, the Meritorious Service Award, for attempting to save the life of an inmate.
Which makes the events of August 30, 2009 ironic.
On that Sunday evening, an inmate named Terrance Barnett, facing murder charges from another county, was in his isolation cell and apparently not liking it much. Barnett, about 6'5" and 200 pounds, started by screaming that he wanted to be moved to another facility, then tried to force the issue by breaking the sprinkler head in his cell, flooding the area.
Ronnie had the sprinklers shut off, then tried to reason with the inmate (who was the same size as him). He entered the cell, and Barnett shoved him. Ronnie slipped on the wet floor, according to reports, and fell to the concrete floor. He complained of back pain, and was sent to a local hospital.
The next day he awoke in pain, and it was determined that one of his vertebrae was broken.
Ronnie died on September 8, 2009. The investigation is ongoing and it still hasn't been decided what charges will be filed against Barnett (although I expect him to catch a murder rap). Barnett's been moved to another county's jail - because we certainly don't want anything to happen to him.
Ronnie leaves behind a wife (also a detention deputy, with 22 years' service) and a sixteen-year-old daughter.
Rest in peace, friend.