Prison guard charged with assaulting Alabama inmate who died

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, March 10, 2022

An Alabama corrections officer has been charged with using excessive force against an inmate who later died, the state prison system announced Thursday.

Lt. Mohammad Jenkins was arrested Wednesday on a charge of second-degree assault, the Alabama Department of Corrections wrote in a news release.

The prison system said an investigation found evidence that Jenkins used excessive force against inmate Victor Russo during an altercation on Feb. 16. Russo died on in a Birmingham hospital on Feb. 25, two days after being found unresponsive in his cell.

Jenkins resigned from the Donaldson Correctional Facility after his arrest.

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and use of excessive force by ADOC staff is not tolerated,” the department stated.

The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office reported last month that Russo had suffered apparent blunt force trauma, but it was unclear whether that caused his death. His cellmate had reported Russo had passed out, the prison system said last month.

Court records were not immediately available to show if Jenkins has an attorney to comment.

The department said Thursday that the death remains under investigation and the prison system will work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office “to complete a comprehensive investigation, including review of autopsy results.”

The U.S. Department of Justice in 2020 filed a lawsuit against Alabama accusing the state of failing to protect male inmates from inmate-on-inmate violence and excessive force at the hands of prison staff. The state, while acknowledging problems in the prison system, has disputed the Justice Department’s accusations.

Russo was serving a life sentence for murder from a 1987 conviction out of Jefferson County.