By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 23, 2009
Anthony McIntosh said he had never even heard of Ronnie L. White when he reported to work at the Prince George's County jail for an overtime shift as a guard on June 29, 2008.
That was the day that White, who had been charged with killing a Prince George's police officer, was found hanging by a bedsheet in his cell and McIntosh became the focus of a year-long criminal investigation.
In his first public accounting of what happened that morning, McIntosh said he was about two hours into his shift, which began at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, when he learned that the cellblock to which he was assigned was holding the high-profile inmate.
McIntosh, 45, explained that he lives in the Baltimore area and does not have easy access to the Washington area media, which had extensive coverage of the death of Cpl. Richard S. Findley. But he had never heard of Findley or White, he said, because he didn't see Washington television or newspapers in the two days between the officer's death and his shift.
About two hours after he began working, McIntosh said, a sergeant walked through his maximum-security cellblock, H-5, and mentioned White and Findley. White had been charged with running over Findley and dragging him to his death with a stolen truck. McIntosh said the sergeant's tone was conversational and not agitated or angry.
An hour and 15 minutes after talking to the sergeant, McIntosh said, he found White in his cell, hanging by a bedsheet; efforts to revive him failed. State medical examiners found that White died of asphyxiation and ruled the death a homicide.
In June, State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said that unless new evidence emerges, he does not expect to charge anyone in White's death. A state police investigation concluded that White could have killed himself. White's mother, Angela White, has filed a civil lawsuit against McIntosh and two other guards, accusing them of killing White in an act of law enforcement vigilantism. Angela White's attorney, Bobby Henry, did not return calls.
McIntosh said he had no antipathy toward Ronnie White, despite the accusations. "It didn't matter," McIntosh said. "Everybody's going to be treated the same." He dismissed the revenge motive, saying he didn't know Findley and is not friends with any county police officers.
The interview with McIntosh occurred this week at his attorneys' offices in Upper Marlboro. The lawyers, Timothy Fitts and Clothilda Harvey, made McIntosh available because the corrections officer was trying to resign from his job and the county would not allow it. In an interview Thursday with The Washington Post, the county's public safety director said he had decided to accept McIntosh's resignation.
Fitts and Harvey said county officials were trying to force McIntosh to undergo an administrative hearing, which was scheduled for next week, in violation of the county's labor agreement. The attorneys said Prince George's officials wanted to be able to say that they had fired McIntosh, who has been on administrative leave with pay, pending an internal investigation since shortly after White's death.
Vernon Herron, the county public safety director, said he had ordered officials not to accept McIntosh's resignation because, after being on paid leave for more than a year, he thought McIntosh wanted to have a hearing. "In retrospect, I have decided to accept his resignation," Herron said.
McIntosh appeared for the interview in black-and-white checked slacks, a striped dress shirt and a gray tie. He is 5-foot-9 and weighs a little more than 200 pounds. A 1,000-page investigation into White's death by Maryland State Police said some co-workers called McIntosh "doughboy."
Through much of the interview, McIntosh sat in his chair with his shoulders hunched, and spoke softly.
Until the moment he went into White's cell and found him hanging, McIntosh said, the morning was unremarkable. Shortly after he began his shift, he said, he did a round of checks on the inmates, in which he looked through a small window into each cell to make sure each detainee was accounted for.
McIntosh said he saw White sitting on his bunk bed. "I asked him if he was okay. He nodded," McIntosh said.
According to the state police investigation, McIntosh became the chief suspect because he was the only guard with access to White's cell during the time he died, and there were inconsistencies in his polygraph tests. McIntosh also waited two days to tell authorities that he found White hanging in his cell, allowing investigators to believe that another guard found White unresponsive on the floor.
In the interview, McIntosh did not say much about why he left the cell without telling his bosses that White was dead. When he saw that White did not have a pulse, McIntosh said, he panicked and allowed another officer to believe he was the first to find White.
McIntosh came forward days later and admitted to investigators that he was the first to find White. By doing so, McIntosh made himself the focus of the investigation.
Asked if he regretted doing so, McIntosh shrugged, and said, "The truth will set you free."
"The sad part is, I tried to save that man's life," McIntosh said the day before the county agreed to his resignation. "And this is what I get."