Yakima jail officer in critical condition after ‘severe assault’ by inmate

YAKIMA, Wash. — A long-time Yakima City Jail corrections officer is reportedly in critical condition Friday at Harborview Medical Center due to injuries he suffered in a brutal assault by a 37-year-old inmate.

“He has a totally broken orbital bone …the bone between his nose and his mouth is broken,” Yakima Police Chief Matt Murray said. “He doesn’t have swelling of the brain, which is good. I mean, that’s one of the big fears, but his face is just broken.”

Murray said the corrections officer was checking on inmates housed in individual cells Thursday afternoon when, at about 4:30 p.m., he entered the cell occupied by a 37-year-old man being held on suspicion of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense.

“My understanding of it is that the assault was so severe and so swift that the officer went immediately unconscious,” Murray said. “It wasn’t a fight. It wasn’t combat.”

Murray said surveillance video of the cell area was partially obscured by a wall, but indicates there was no interaction, conversation or verbal altercation prior to the attack. He said they do not believe the inmate was intoxicated, but he was speaking incoherently.

“We had gotten some information from the family the day before that sounded odd,” Murray said “Apparently, he was telling other people he was going to attack a corrections officer. But we don’t know why he did this.”

Murray said several nearby inmates called out to jail staff to let them know what was happening. Multiple Yakima police officers — including Murray — responded to the jail to help with the situation.

“The suspect was encountered by the first responding officer at which point the suspect would not comply with orders to surrender and force was used to take him into custody,” police said in a Facebook post.

Officers administered first aid until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported the injured corrections officer to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.

Murray said the suspect was immediately placed into another cell by himself, made a video recording of his appearance to document any injuries and had him cleared by medical personnel. He said the suspect came away with just a swollen hand.

“I think it’s very important to point out that even even though the officer that was injured is our teammate and our friend, our duty is to protect the suspect as well,” Murray said.

Due to the extent and severity of the officer’s injuries, he was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for further treatment and remains there in critical condition as of Friday.

“He is stable, but he has serious injuries; I mean, he is still on a ventilator,” Murray said. “We don’t expect that he will die from this, but he got very serious injuries as a result of this attack.”

There was an additional factor that contributed to the severity of the officer’s injuries,

“The inmate did have a ring … that was big and that probably contributed to the damage,” Murray said.

Murray said the jail typically removes and holds inmates’ jewelry for them while they’re incarcerated. However, in situations where the only way to remove an item of jewelry is to permanently damage it, they don’t always cut it off.

In this case, the inmate retained his ring until after the assault, at which point they did cut the ring off.

“This is one of those things where you try to figure out what’s the best or the right way to handle this,” Murray said. “And, you know, maybe that was a mistake on our part. I don’t know, but we are not expecting people to do what he did either.”

Murray said this is one of the aspects of the case the department’s Internal Affairs will be looking into as part of their investigation. He said as far as he’s aware of, this is the first incident where the city jail has had to deal with violence against corrections officers to this degree.

“We’ll look at everything and see if we should do anything different, but I also don’t want to overreact,” Murray said. “Because again, this jail has been in operation for decades and this is extremely unusual.”

Murray said it could take several week or even months to review all the different aspects of this case. In the meantime, the 37-year-old inmate has been charged with second-degree assault and booked into the Yakima County jail.

RECENT HEADLINES FROM THE KAPP KVEW NEWS STAFF:

RELATED: Yakima inmate violently assaults corrections officer