NC in­mate dies af­ter light­ing fire in cell

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY JOE MARUSAK AND AMES ALEXAN­DER [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com aalexan­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak

An in­mate died from “se­vere burns” af­ter set­ting a fire in his cell on Fri­day at Polk Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in But­ner, the North Carolina Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety tweeted. But­ner is north­east of Durham.

Fred­die Pick­ett set the fire at about 3:30 p.m. and was taken to a lo­cal med­i­cal fa­cil­ity, prison of­fi­cials said. He was pro­nounced dead at 4:47 p.m.

Staff ex­tin­guished the fire, and no one else was hurt, prison of­fi­cials said late Fri­day.

The 41year-old Pick­ett was con­victed of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der in 1997 and was sched­uled to be re­leased in 2026, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment. He had been cited for 92 in­frac­tions in­side the pris­ons since 1992, ac­cord­ing to prison records. Among them: a 2017 write-up for as­sault­ing staff with a weapon. The North Carolina Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety, lo­cal law en­force­ment and fire of­fi­cials are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fire.

In Meck­len­burg County, a jail in­mate was pro­nounced dead late Thurs­day af­ter be­ing taken to a hos­pi­tal, the Meck­len­burg County Sher­iff’s of­fice said in a state­ment.

The sher­iff’s of­fice said Fri­day it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the death of 34-year-old Je­mar­cus McIl­waine and that no fur­ther de­tails were avail­able.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues as the med­i­cal ex­am­iner deter­mines the cause of death,” the sher­iff’s of­fice said in the state­ment.

Pick­ett’s death at Polk Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion comes at a time when the state is wrestling with acute staff short­ages in its pris­ons.

The short­ages are par­tic­u­larly acute at max­i­mum-se­cu­rity pris­ons in ru­ral ar­eas, such as Polk, where more than 35 per­cent of of­fi­cer po­si­tions were va­cant in Jan­uary.

Pick­ett was be­ing held in what the state calls “high se­cu­rity max­i­mum con­trol,” a form of iso­la­tion re­served for some of the pris­ons’ most dan­ger­ous of­fend­ers.

It is de­signed for in­mates who pose “an im­mi­nent threat” to the lives or health of other in­mates or staff, or a “se­ri­ous threat” to prison se­cu­rity, ac­cord­ing to a state pol­icy.

Fred­die Pick­ett

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