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Family demands answers after Florida father fatally beaten in jail by cellmate allegedly for being gay

Courtesy of Graham Injury Firm

(NEW YORK) — The family of an incarcerated man allegedly killed by his cellmate in a Broward jail is demanding answers.

Janard Geffrard, 29, was allegedly killed by cellmate 35-year-old Kevin Barnes after a Dec. 16 beating, according to his family’s attorney, Josiah Graham.

Barnes, who investigators say confessed to the beating, said he did it because the victim was “gay,” according to the probable cause affidavit obtained by ABC News. Geffrard was an out gay man, Graham said.

“The news of his death was obviously a complete shock to the family,” said Graham in an interview. “His mom is particularly devastated. Because this is her firstborn son.”

Graham added that Geffrard was also a father to a 10-year-old son who celebrated his first birthday without his father Tuesday.

He continued, “It’s nothing that any parent should go through, hearing the fact that your child passed away is one thing, but to hear that they were brutally executed because they were gay — it’s just a completely entirely different scenario you’re dealing with.”

Barnes is facing charges of attempted murder, “evidencing prejudice while committing the offense.”

In a statement to ABC News, Barnes’ legal representatives said they “will be conducting our own investigation into what occurred and are unable to comment at this time.”

“No one deserves to be brutally assaulted for 20 consecutive minutes without anyone intervening,” said Graham. “The family wants to know that he was loving. He’s the type of person that he would give his shirt off his back. He would give you his last dollar.”

According to the affidavit, an official who watched surveillance footage of the fatal incident said Barnes walked over to where the cell’s toilet is positioned, out of view from the cameras, according to the affidavit. Several minutes later, Barnes was allegedly seen choke-holding his cellmate from behind.

The victim’s name is redacted in the documents and the surveillance video footage from inside the detention facility is exempt from release under the Florida statute 119.071, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Barnes was allegedly observed “kneeling down still in the same position with only his head in view,” remaining in that position for two more minutes until he let his cellmate go and walked away. The cellmate could not be seen in the video, according to the reporting officer. Barnes was allegedly seen pacing around the cell for ten minutes, before making “a stomp like maneuver with his feet toward the ground” where he had held his cellmate in a chokehold position.

Police say that deputies found the cellmate unresponsive inside of his cell and bleeding from his mouth.

When a deputy arrived at the cell more than 20 minutes after the apparent start of the altercation, they found the victim lying on the floor against the wall. Barnes was detained and removed from the cell pending further investigation, the affidavit read.

Barnes did not attempt to notify deputies of the victim’s condition or attempt to get him medical assistance in the minutes that elapsed after he choked the victim, according to the affidavit.

According to Graham, Geffrard was declared brain dead 10 days after the incident and was kept on life support for organ donations.

Broward Sheriff’s Office’s (BSO) Internal Affairs Unit has an open and active administrative investigation into the incident, according to the law enforcement agency.

Two BSO employees, a detention deputy and a detention technician, are on administrative investigative leave with pay, according to BSO.

Geffrard was arrested in May 2023 and was determined to be “incompetent” and unfit to stand trial in November, according to Broward County documents provided by Graham.

Barnes was incarcerated over “a probation violation and grand theft auto case,” according to the Miami Herald. He was also found to be “incompetent.” Geffrard was arrested over a burglary charge, according to Broward County documents.

“The next step is to determine a proper placement for someone who’s mentally ill,” said Graham. “Do we just house him in the jail indefinitely? Or do we place him in some type of rehabilitative facility at a hospital? Does he go home? That determination had not been made at the time he was killed.”

Barnes had also been declared unfit to stand trial, according to Broward County documents.

In a letter sent to Sheriff Gregory Tony at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, public defender Gordon Weekes called for outside oversight into “abuse, medical neglect, and conditions of confinement” within Broward County jails following Geffrard’s death.

“Individuals held in detention have a right to be safe from violence by other inmates, staff, and detention deputies,” he said. “Even though the entirety of the attack was captured on video, no deputy intervened.”

Weekes also called for the release of the surveillance footage in the letter.

Geffrard’s family is calling for jail reforms that address issues of mental health and surveillance in jails to ensure that a deadly incident like this does not happen again. The family says they intend to bring forward a wrongful death claim in his death.

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