Family of Berkeley County man killed in Lee prison riot sues for wrongful death

Eddie Gaskins (SCDC)

Attorneys for the family of a Berkeley County man killed in an April riot at Lee Correctional Institution have sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections for wrongful death.

Eddie Gaskins, 32, was one of seven inmates killed and 22 hospitalized as a result of the hours-long uprising inside the Kershaw County prison facility April 15. The incident was the deadly U.S. prison riot in 25 years.

A coroner ruled Gaskins bled to death after being repeatedly stabbed. Attorneys for Gaskins' family say his death was the result of "gross negligence and conscious indifference" on the part of South Carolina corrections officials.

“Lee Correctional Institution has a history of serious human rights violations," said Scott C. Evans, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit on behalf of Gaskins' family. "Ten years ago, SCDC’s own documents implicated Lee Correctional staff in the freezing death of a non-verbal, developmentally disabled inmate who was left without clothing or blankets for 7 days in the winter. Not a single Lee Correctional employee was indicted, fired, reprimanded, or even written up in connection with that inmate’s death. This continuing pattern of blatant disregard for basic safety and human rights has no place in the modern world.”

The lawsuit also claims corrections officials also did not properly monitor inmates, provide basic medical care, or properly train and supervise prison workers.

Gaskins was serving the first year of a 10-year prison sentence for domestic violence. He had been sentenced in December 2017 for a September 2016 incident.

“What should have been a likely two-year sentence resulted in a death sentence for Eddie," said attorney James B. Moore, a Gaskins' family attorney. "How much blood must be spilled before SCDC adheres to its own rules? Eddie was not just an inmate; was a son, a brother, and a father to four young children.”

Attorneys also say they plan to file a separate federal lawsuit for civil rights violations on behalf of Gaskins' estate.

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