The Officer-Involved Deadly Incident (OIDI) task force for the 10th Judicial Circuit is looking into the death of Eric Nelson, 46, a registered sex offender who was arrested by Lakeland police on charges of methamphetamine and paraphernalia possession.
Deputies said Nelson told them he “hadn’t slept in five days” and became combative, yelling at jail staff and repeatedly kicking his cell door. He was transferred to the South County Jail in Frostproof, where he was placed on suicide watch in the medical dorm.
When he was told to remove his clothing and put on a smock, Nelson allegedly punched a deputy in the face. The sheriff’s office said Nelson hit, kicked and bit three deputies as they tried to put him in handcuffs.
More deputies arrived and sprayed a chemical agent in an attempt to subdue him, but it reportedly did not affect him. The sheriff’s office claimed Nelson “exhibited strength greater than a normal person” from alleged drug use.
After Nelson was in handcuffs and leg shackles, he was taken to a private cell, where deputies put him on the ground to remove the restraints. The sheriff’s office did not say what happened in the time between the restraints being removed and deputies realizing Nelson had gone unresponsive.
The sheriff’s office said deputies noticed Nelson wasn’t breathing and was beginning to turn blue as they were leaving his cell. Jail staff began performing CPR, which continued as Nelson was transported to the hospital, where he was declared dead.
In addition to the 10th Judicial Circuit investigation, the sheriff’s office is conducting its own internal investigation. The Polk County Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine Nelson’s cause of death and the State Attorney’s Office will have the final word on the deputies’ use of force.