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Friday, June 14, 2024

Details unclear in death of Alachua County Jail inmate

Residents skeptical of circumstances

After over a year of incarceration, Gainesville resident Marcus Goodman was expected to stand trial and return home on probation. Instead, Goodman never returned.

In a statement Jan. 26, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. said Goodman, 32, died after suffering a “medical emergency.” The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the cause of death, and the ACSO Office of Professional Standards will also begin an internal investigation.

April Johnson, Goodman’s 33-year-old sister, said his death was alarming given he had no outstanding physical conditions prior. 

“Marcus was supposed to be released to go home,” Johnson said. “Not released to an autopsy.”

After talking to a relative and hearing from inmates within the prison, she now believes a different story, she said. They allege officers tased him three times while at the jail, just before the emergency.

“One of my distant cousins was also in there,” Johnson said. “He said he overheard the popping of the guns and looked over and saw a couple of the sheriffs tasing him.”

ACSO spokesperson Becky Butscher declined to comment on the family’s claim, as well any details of the medical emergency.

The Alachua County Jail has faced similar allegations of poor inmate treatment in 2021, after Erica Thompson gave birth in the jail only for her child to die after her cries for help allegedly went unanswered

ACSO later disputed the allegations by providing photos of officers checking on her throughout the day, though some community members argued they should have done more.

Goodman was arrested in June 2021 on charges of burglary after stealing over $8,000 in electronics from a Jiffy Lube, according to his arrest report.

Johnson said he’d been suffering from a manic episode prior to the arrest as a result of his PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety diagnoses. 

“He was in a state of psychosis when everything happened,” she said.

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Disorders left Goodman incompetent to hold a job, which led to him roaming homeless, no longer taking his medication. The arrest report shows employees were aware of his erratic state, describing him as a problematic loiterer who “acts crazy sometimes.”

As a result, Goodman was soon after transported to North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center, where he spent the majority of his time in custody. 

After an evaluation to stand trial, he was expected to leave on probation with his family the day he was pronounced dead, Johnson said.

Local activist Danielle Chanzes said the jail needs to prioritize its inmate conditions proactively rather than only investigating after problems occur.

“Investigations after somebody’s died is a little bit too late,” Chanzes said, “We've already lost a life.”

Johnson said outside of the episodes, Goodman was a normal guy who enjoyed drawing, fishing, basketball and more — the lack of financial and medical accommodations just drove him to a breaking point.

“There’s no resources for young males,” Johnson said.

Goodmans’ family started a GoFundme to raise funds to cover funeral expenses. As of Sunday night, it has raised more than $1,700 of its $20,000 goal.

Contact Aidan Bush at abush@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @aidandisto.

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Aidan Bush

Aidan Bush is a third-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Engagement Managing Editor of The Alligator. In his free time, he likes to listen to music and go kayaking.


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