Federal Investigation Possible in Samuel Shields' Death at Prince George's Co. Jail

Family hired lawyer, hoping to probe independent investigation into man's death

A lawyer is hoping to draw a federal investigation into the death of Samuel Shields, a man who died in custody at Prince George's County Detention Center last week.

Shields was arrested last Tuesday when he got into a dispute over a $2 bus fare at the Addison Road Metro station, police said. Officers on scene pepper sprayed him and took him into custody at Prince George's County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro.

A jail spokeswoman told News4 Shields was disruptive, and was separated from the other inmates. She said Shields then became medically distressed and was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
A witness who says she was at the jail that afternoon told News4 correctional officers violently beat Shields after he refused to put on his jail uniform.

“We can see them kicking, applying force with their fists with a club, we could see them just hitting him, and at that time he was screaming bloody murder," she explained.

She said after the beating, Shields’ body was hunched over and appeared lifeless. A medical examiner's report is pending and jail officials have refused comment because the investigation is ongoing.

This week, the Shields family hired a lawyer to look into the death. 

"We believe the manner of death in this case should be homicide," Shields' family lawyer Billy Ponds said. "We want to get somebody who can come in, who's objective and isn't connected to the county to do a thorough investigation."

Ponds said he's also hoping the investigation would cover the deaths of Mitchell Williams and Ronnie White, who also died at the jail under what their families are calling suspicious circumstances.

"This is not the first death in recent years that has occurred at Prince George's County [Detention Center] under murky circumstances, would be the best way to describe it," Ponds explained.

Williams was found dead in his cell last March, just 10 days before he was scheduled to be released. His family told News4 he appeared upbeat about the release and would never have reverted to suicide.

White was found dead inside his cell two days after being arrested in connection with the death of a Prince George's County police officer in July 2008. His death was initially ruled a homicide, then a suicide. A correctional officer was sentenced to two years for not reporting White's death as soon as it happened.

"Mrs. Shields -- as well as myself -- doesn't have a great deal of confidence that the Prince George's County Detention Center is going to be objective in their investigation," Ponds said.

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