On October 24, 2016, David Garceau, an inmate at the St. Louis Community Release Center, was pronounced dead in his cell. He had been hanging by a sheet for 10 hours.
Garceau’s death was reported straightforwardly in the media.
Yet an investigation by the Missouri Department of Corrections, which was first published Wednesday after an open records request by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, found that guards at the facility, which acts as a halfway house for residents recently released from prison, spent hours online and skipped routine security checks.
During the time Garceau was dying, staffers had streamed Netflix, checked Twitter, and browsed the internet. They had apparently not noticed their surveillance cameras showing Garceau repeatedly testing ways to hang himself.
Garceau struggled for years with drug addiction and mental illness. He spent time homeless after his father kicked him out for cutting his wrists deeply enough to require a hospital stay, and racked up convictions for burglary and arson. He was being held in the center’s Administrative Segregation Unit, with the Post-Dispatch describes as “like timeout for adults.”
Video recorded between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 23 shows Garceau testing different ways to tie and secure a brown bed sheet to a bed frame. A guard in the area during that time later told an investigator that he did his job “admirably” as an employee that afternoon.
But surveillance video indicated that he lied about doing three security checks between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The video also indicated the guard had been watching something on a computer screen that wasn’t live video footage of Garceau’s cell.
A review of internet usage of the computer during the guard’s nine-hour shift found 254 pages of detailed internet access and 2 hours and 22 minutes of media streaming and access to electronic social networks.
The guard wasn’t the only one asleep at the wheel. Another official, who is 24, spent her eight-hour shift visiting Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, and streaming services for 4 hours and 54 minutes, a review of her computer usage found.
Another guard, LaTasha Poole, 33, is also shown skipping security checks on surveillance video. But she told the newspaper the night of Garceau’s death was her first working in the area and she wasn’t equipped with the proper training.
Poole, who’s accused of using a computer to stream Blue Streak on Netflix during her shift, told an investigator she thought her behavior was acceptable because she watched the movie with her immediate supervisor.
No charges came from a St. Louis police investigation into Garceau’s death.
The Associated Press reported that “several people” had been fired over the incident.
The center has had similar incidents occur previously. Another resident, Demarko Flowers, 22, was found unresponsive in his cell on Jan. 5. His death remains under investigation as a possible overdose.