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A death investigation is underway after a violent inmate died at a Central Florida prison

A death investigation is underway after a violent inmate died at a Central Florida prison

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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a registered sex offender after deputies say he violently assaulted officers at the South County Jail.

Eric Nelson, 46, was arrested Dec. 23 by the Lakeland Police Department, which responded to a report of a possible burglary suspect running from the Taco Bell on U.S. Highway 98.

The officer caught up with Nelson down the street in the Starbucks parking lot and found syringes in a backpack and a bag containing a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.

Nelson told officers he used the needles to “shoot up meth.” He was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug possession.


According to deputies, after being transported to the Sheriff’s Processing Center, Nelson became agitated and cursed at the jail and medical staff.

Nelson stated that he “hasn’t slept in five days” and was recently released from prison and “sometimes you have to prove yourself.”

Medical staff noted that he appeared to be under the influence of illegal drugs and was placed in a private holding facility where he became enraged and began repeatedly kicking the cell door.

Deputies said that because of his violent behavior and threats to hurt deputies and other inmates, medical staff decided he would need to be placed in the medical dormitory under suicide watch.

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Nelson was then transported to the Southern County Jail in Frostoff, where he was to be placed in the medical dormitory under suicide watch.

After arriving at the jail, Nelson punched an aide twice in the face and punched, kicked and bit other officers when they tried to handcuff him, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Deputies used an agency-issued chemical agent spray to subdue the inmate, but it had no effect and the inmate continued to fight and violently resist deputies.

Deputies were finally able to handcuff and restrain Nelson and took him to a cell where he was placed on the floor so the restraints could be removed. As deputies prepared to leave, they noticed he was not breathing, the news release said.

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Medical personnel immediately began CPR and Nelson was transported to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

According to the sheriff’s office, Nelson has an extensive 26-year criminal history dating back to 1996, including rape, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, sex offender refusal to report change of name or residence, fugitive from justice , grand theft and drug possession.

Per standard procedure, this incident is being investigated by the 10th Judicial Circuit Fatal Incident Task Force, an internal investigation by PCSO’s Administrative Investigations Division, and an independent investigation by the Florida State Attorney’s Office, which will make a final determination regarding the use of defensive actions by MPs.

The Polk County Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the manner and cause of death.

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