PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS5) --  A good man with a big heart and brilliant mind.

That's how friends and co-workers will remember Gene Lee, the Maricopa County Detention Officer who died Wednesday after being attacked by an inmate at the Lower Buckeye jail in Phoenix.

[WATCH: Sheriff Penzone talks about detention officer's death]

Sheriff Paul Penzone said that Officer Lee had a career as an engineer before signing up with MCSO.

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

"Had a successful career, but always had this passion that he wanted to be in public service," said Penzone. "He volunteered in the organization for years then walked away from his job as an engineer at a stage in his life when many of us are looking to slow down or take in easy."

[READ MORE: MCSO detention officer in hospital after altercation with inmate]

Daniel Davitt, 59, is the inmate accused of killing Lee.

He reportedly grabbed Lee in a jail walkway Tuesday morning, then violently knocked him to the ground, causing a severe head injury.

Arizona's Family has learned the attack was likely premeditated.

Back in August, Davitt filed a civil rights complaint in federal court, accusing Officer Lee of sexual harassment, claiming Lee stared at him inappropriately in a restroom. The complaint was filed after the allegation was investigated and deemed unsubstantiated.

Sheriff Penzone said that inmates file complaints about detention officers all the time and there was nothing to indicate Officer Lee was in danger.

[WATCH: MCSO sheriff responds to lawsuit filed by inmate who allegedly killed detention officer]

"There was nothing in the ranks that gave any indication that there was going to be some escalation of violence." Penzone said. "It's just unrealistic to think you can move your modest staffing around every time that an inmate chooses to have some type of bitterness towards a detention officer."

According to Penzone, if they believe an inmate is a threat they will take necessary steps to prevent possible violence.

Davitt was in jail facing charges involving sex crimes with children when this incident happened.

“I refuse to allow, and I say this with respect, to allow that narrative to distract from the fact that a good man who signed up to provide public safety for this community, his life was taken by a cowardly predator," Penzone said.

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.



Recommended for you