Authorities are investigating the death of an inmate at the Lee County Jail.
Ronnie Dean, 51, was booked into the jail 10 days ago on April 16 following an investigation by the Fort Myers Police Department. He was accused of sexually abusing a young child.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the Lee County Jail, said on Sunday deputies conducting routine checks at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Core facility found Dean unresponsive in his cell. They began life-saving measures until medics arrived on scene. Medics continued efforts but ultimately pronounced him dead.
Investigators with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said Dean suffered from “long-term health issues and found no signs of trauma or foul play.”
The Medical Examiner’s Office believes the cause of death to be natural, according to the sheriff’s office, but a final cause of death will be determined after toxicology and other tests are completed.
Now, the Lee County NAACP and his family want answers.
Dean’s family said he was schizophrenic and had been Baker Acted several times before.
While the charges against him are horrible, his family doesn’t believe them. They want to know how he ended up dead while in custody and have filed a complaint demanding answers.
“Ronnie meant everything to us and to our family. He was very precious to us,” said Sharon Pointer, Dean’s cousin.
According to a Fort Myers police arrest report, Dean took his pants off and allowed a young child to touch him.
His family admits they were not with Dean that day but they don’t believe he molested anyone. Instead, they believe he was having a mental breakdown.
“Being around him all of these years, when he does have a mental break he will take all his clothes and go outside,” Pointer said.
Police said Dean became combative and resisted arrest.
His family claims police beat him and used a taser. They said his mugshot which shows bruises on his face is proof.
“The family’s complaint is excessive force,” said Lee County NAACP President James Muwakkil.
Muwakkil said ideally when dealing with someone who has mental health issues, “you want to bring in a mental health professional to deescalate a violent occurrence.”
Dean’s family is not quite sure what happened next. Fort Myers police said he was taken to the hospital where he was then released by doctors.
While LCSO said there was no foul play, Dean’s family wanted an investigation to determine if excessive force led to his death.
“We just want the truth,” Pointer said.
A Fort Myers police spokesperson said they will open an internal affairs investigation into Dean’s death.
WINK News has asked for an additional report that details what officers say happened during their altercation with Dean. However, the report has not been released.
Below is the full statement from the Fort Myers Police Department.
On 4/16/22, Fort Myers Police Officers responded to a call about a man by the name of Ronnie Dean exposing his genitals and molesting a 2-year-old child.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found Dean in an agitated state standing with a young child suspected to be the victim. Dean became combative and punched an officer in the face causing a wound that required stitches. Dean then ran from officers on foot. Officers pursued and a struggle ensued. Officers were forced to utilize a taser several times to gain compliance and place Dean in handcuffs.
Whenever officers deploy a taser more than three times, the Fort Myers Police Department policy requires the person to be medically evaluated. Dean was transported to the hospital and medically cleared and did not suffer from any obvious physical injury.
FMPD has learned that Dean suffered from long-term health issues and the Medical Examiner’s Office preliminary investigation believes the cause of his death to be natural.
With any use of force incident, the Fort Myers Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau conducts a thorough investigation to ensure it fell within the law and policy. That review has now been expanded to address the Dean’s family’s concerns.
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