ST. LOUIS – FOX 2 has learned of a police investigation into a St. Louis Justice Center death Sunday. It happened two days before this week’s hostage crisis, but was kept secret until FOX 2 was able to uncover it.

We’ve confirmed that St. Louis police and the Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating the inmate death of 32-year-old Carlton Bernard. His mother says she’s struggling to get answers.

Rev. Darryl Gray, the chairman of the Detention Facility Oversight Board, was shocked he had to learn about it from us.

“It is alarming,” Gray said. “We can’t even find out that someone has died in their custody.”

Court records show Bernard has been locked up since June on a third-degree assault charge. His mother hired Clayton attorney Mark Pedroli, who told us, “32 years old is far too young to die in the custody of the government. Like all in-custody deaths deserve, Mr. Bernard’s death will be investigated vigorously by my law firm.”

Bernard died two days prior to Tuesday’s hostage crisis. A 73-year-old corrections officer was rescued by SWAT after a two-hour standoff. Once SWAT arrived, the crisis was defused within minutes. Jail officials said the attacking inmates are known troublemakers.

“The only demand that I actually heard on the radio was for pizza,” Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah said as she shrugged in a Zoom news conference after the incident.

Former inmate James Risner says he noticed the jail becoming more dangerous as staffing dropped.

“There’s times I’ve been in here when it first opened, where there were two staff to every unit; now it’s just one,” he said.

Risner added that staffing problems cause ripples of problems.

“The inmates now don’t have no respect for the guards, and the guards really don’t like their jobs, so they’re really not trying to do their jobs, you know?” he said. “They let a lot of stuff pass them. They act like they don’t see a lot of stuff.”

Risner says it’s common for inmates to find out about violence and deaths through the rumor mill rather than from officials.

Rev. Gray says officials need to be more open, especially with Gray’s board.

“We definitely should have been informed, the same way we should have been informed yesterday about the hostage situation,” he said.

Gray said he learned of the hostage situation through the media.

“You’re doing your job. We’re asking the commissioner to do her job,” he said.

Gray pointed out a portion of Tuesday’s Zoom news conference, when Commissioner Clemons-Abdullah claimed jail improvements since the 2021 riots.

“If you notice, for the record, it has been over a couple years since anything has occurred here,” she said.

That statement made as FOX 2 was still working on confirming Sunday’s jail death. Gray says the oversight board should’ve already been notified in order to begin its inquiry.

“We have qualified staff as part of the oversight board. We’re not talking simply nine civilians. We’re also talking at least a half a dozen staff who have been hired by the City of St. Louis to do this job.”