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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Officers Morale at an All-Time Low:
Seven officers injured after inmate sets fires in his cell at Attica

By SCOTT DESMIT, sdesmit@batavianews.com

Seven corrections officers suffered smoke inhalation and cuts and bruises after an inmate set fires in his cell and then fought with officers trying to rescue him Monday.

Kenny Gold, western region vice president of the state Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association detailed the series of events that began when the inmate set his mattress on fire and then set fire to other personal items.

He said the inmate, 36, who was in special housing, was “irate and yelling at officers,” and trying to get them to fight. After setting fire to the mattress, clothes and sheets, he refused to come out of the cell and barricaded the door with the burning mattress.

One officer tried to use an extinguisher but failed to put out the fire. A supervisor determined that officers had to make entry into the burning cell in an effort to remove the inmate and put out the fire.

Gold said staff entered and the inmate attacked them. He was eventually subdued and dragged from the cell. The inmate was brought to the infirmary and evaluated by medical staff. He is serving a 7 to 15 year sentence after being convicted in Wayne County in 2017 for three counts of burglary 3rd and one count of attempted burglary 3rd.

Six officers and one sergeant sustained smoke inhalation that consisted of burning sensation to throats, lungs and chests, and needed to be treated at Wyoming County Community Health Hospital. One of the six officers also sustained a laceration to his left eyebrow that needed five stitches to close and a laceration under the left eye.

In addition to the smoke inhalation, the sergeant and five other officers sustained minor abrasions, pain and swelling to wrists and back. They did not return to duty. All the injuries occurred when they extracted the inmate from the cell and he fought with staff, Gold said.

“This inmate clearly had intentions of hurting staff regardless of the fact he was already in a Special Housing Unit for unrelated disciplinary measures,” Gold said. “He attempted to bait the officers into coming into the cell so he could attack them and set his cell on fire so they had no choice but to enter his cell to extract him for his own safety. These are the daily situations our members have to face, the ones that our elected officials fail to recognize as they continue to push watered down discipline like HALT.

“The current disciplinary system in its form, fails to keep staff safe. Assaults on staff are at record levels and will only get worse when HALT is implemented. All this serves is to make their jobs more difficult and undermine morale, which is already at an all-time low.”

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