A New Jersey correctional police officer at Northern State Prison in Newark was hospitalized after he was badly beaten by an inmate who stole his pepper spray and squirted the chemical at other officers, authorities said Friday.
Photos of the officer, who was not named, show cuts and bruises to the man’s swollen face and what appears to be a deep gash to the top of his head.
He was taken to a nearby hospital after the attack, which occurred about 6:50 p.m., according to PBA Local 105, the union representing about 5,000 correctional police officers.
“The inmate began his assault by unexpectedly punching and kicking an officer faced away from him, landing several strikes to the head and face before a distress signal could be called,” PBA Local 105 President William Sullivan said in a statement.
During the attack, the inmate stole the officer’s OC canister “to spray his face and use as a weapon,” the statement said.
“As nearby (response team) officers arrived on the scene, the inmate proceeded to deploy spray at the response team, subsequently emptying the canister,” Sullivan said.
The inmate, who was not named, was subdued “after much resistance.” The prison called 911 due to the severity of the officer’s injuries, the statement said.
“(The officer) was quickly transported to the nearest emergency room, his face heavily bruised and swollen with open gashes around his eyes and the top of his head,” the statement said.
Sullivan said the state Department of Corrections’ Special Investigations Division has launched a probe into the assault. No charges were announced as of Friday afternoon.
In his statement, Sullivan said PBA Local 105 is calling for the Department of Corrections to “issue individual charges for each officer this inmate sprayed.”
“We stand with our officer and hope he makes a full recovery,” Sullivan said.
Dan Sperrazza, executive director of the department’s Office of External Affairs, said the person who assaulted the officer will be held accountable.
“The responsibility of ensuring the operations of safe and secure facilities for all incarcerate persons and personnel is our highest priority,” Sperrazza said in an email to NJ Advance Media. “Any assault or harm caused by any individual within an NJDOC facility will be (prosecuted).”
Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey PBA, released a statement criticizing bail reform and blaming legislators for failing to understand the risks correctional police officers take inside New Jersey’s prisons.
“Six bodily fluid attacks a day. Horrific career-ending aggravated assaults on our officers around the state,” Colligan said. “This is what happens when legislators make prison policy and not prison experts.”