The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the shooting of two inmates at Columbia Correctional Institute earlier this year has led to charges against seven people.
FDLE began its investigation on March 22 after two inmates were shot with a .25 caliber Beretta semiautomatic pistol inside the prison in Lake City. Inmates Kirk Cartwright, 33, and Deshandre Billups, 26, told investigators they were shot by an unknown person while praying inside their cell.
Investigators, however, found that the inmates conspired to bring a gun into the prison through the mail, and shoot themselves with the intent of suing the prison system.
According to state officials, Cartwright and Billups routinely smuggled in cellphones and drugs they sold to other inmates or kept for themselves. Family members and friends of the two inmates, along with inmate Tony Underwood, 21, helped in the scheme.
Investigators also found that Cartwright conspired to obtain a gun inside Columbia Correctional and intentionally shoot himself in order to sue Department of Corrections and seek to have his sentence reduced.
Cartwright is currently serving a life sentence for murder and Billups is serving a 20-year prison term for robbery with a deadly weapon and armed burglary.
Both inmates are now charged with:
- Possession of a firearm inside a correctional facility
- 10 counts of introduction of contraband into a correctional facility
- 10 counts of possession of cell phones in a correctional facility
- Possession of a firearm by convicted felon
- Possession of ammunition by convicted felon
Additionally, Billups is charged with possession of currency and Cartwright is charged with introduction of controlled substances.
Underwood, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for burglary and grand theft, is accused of assisting in the distribution of contraband into the prison. He is now charged with 10 counts of introduction of contraband and 10 counts of introduction of cellular phones into a correctional facility.
Charges were also filed against Billups' mother, Joanne Billups, 46. Authorities said she knowingly communicated with her son via cell phone and text messages and that she sent at least 10 text messages in the days before the shooting, including one less than two hours before the incident. Joanne Billups was arrested Tuesday morning and booked into Hillsborough County Jail on a $100,000 bond.
Underwood's girlfriend, Ekecia Anderson, 21, is accused of communicating with him via text message. An arrest warrant has been issued for Anderson.
Cartwright's sister, Monique Thompson, 35, is accused of communicating with him via cellphone and text message. An arrest warrant has been issued for Thompson.
Billups, Anderson and Thompson are charged with 10 counts each of unauthorized written communications with inmates.
Cartwright’s girlfriend, Katherine Landrum, 28, is accused of 10 counts of introduction of contraband into a correctional facility -- both unauthorized written communications and controlled substances. Landrum was arrested Tuesday morning and booked into Duval County jail on a $110,000 bond.
The FDLE says the investigation continues in cooperation with the Florida Department of Corrections and that additional arrests and charges are anticipated.