PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- The death of a Maricopa County detention officer this week after an attack by an inmate has drawn attention to the dangers of working in a jail or prison.

Officer Gene Lee, 64, was attacked by an inmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail Tuesday morning. 

[WATCH: MCSO detention officer's death highlights dangers of working in jails or prisons]

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said the inmate grabbed Lee by the throat and swept his legs out from under him so aggressively that Lee's head struck the cement. He was rushed to the hospital but never regained consciousness. He later died from his injuries.

The body of Officer Lee will be transported from Banner Health Medical Center to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office Saturday morning at approximately 9 a.m. 

[RELATED: Detention officer attacked by inmate has died, MCSO says]

Carlos Garcia knows firsthand how dangerous it is work around inmates.

Garcia spent 20 years as a correctional officer for the state of Arizona. He is now the executive director of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association.

"It's like being in the military," said Garcia. "Can you imagine going into the military and them saying, 'we're going to send you to Afghanistan, but don't worry, nothing is going to happen to you.' Impossible."

Garcia said as heartbreaking as it was to hear about the death of Officer Lee, it's not a surprise.

"Inherently, prisons and jails have dangerous people who are in there for a reason," said Garcia. "I remember working for 5 years in a predator yard of sex offenders, and they would tell me repeatedly, they're the least hostile inmates there are. The guy who just killed this officer: a sex offender. You can never tell, man - you can never tell."

Over the years, Garcia was assaulted and spit on by a number of inmates. It was a constant reminder of the kind of people around him every time he went to work.

Garcia admits more staffing in our jails and prisons would help, but it wont stop inmates from going after officers.

"It's always good to have more staff, but really in the end, when an inmate wants to commit an atrocity - it's like committing suicide. If that person wants to do it - you cannot stop it; they'll find a way to do it."

A benefit BBQ in Phoenix next week will help the family of Officer Lee.

The BBQ fundraiser will be held Tuesday Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The BBQ is hosted by Sheriff Penzone, the Maricopa County Law Enforcement Association, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association and the Arizona Police Association.

Burgers, hot dogs and chips will be served. All proceeds will be presented to the family of Officer Lee.

-When: Tuesday November 5th, 2019

-Time: 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

-Where: PLEA Office, 1102 W. Adams St., Phoenix

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

Locations

Recommended for you