NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two teenage inmates have been charged with attacking a correction officer at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex, using a sharp object to slash the guard in the face so severely he required 26 stitches, court papers show.
Correction officer Raymond Calderon was ambushed by inmates who repeatedly slashed him and nearly knocked him unconscious around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
William Whitfield, 18, and Darnell Green, 19, did not enter pleas at their arraignment Friday in Bronx Criminal Court. They were ordered held on $500,000 bail on assault and other charges stemming from the attack.
According to the criminal complaint, Green grabbed Calderon from behind and put him in a chokehold. As he was being held, Whitfield approached him holding a sharp object, according to the complaint.
Calderon kicked Whitfield as he approached, and tumbled to the floor with Green, according to the complaint. Whitfield then allegedly cut him on his face, requiring roughly 26 stitches, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
“He will never be the same,” Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, told 1010 WINS. “This officer could’ve died…he is very traumatized over this and this is something he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his life.”
Web Extra: Read The Complaint (.pdf)
Calderon was able to appear in court during the arraignment. He was joined by more than a dozen fellow correction officers, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
Green was being held at Rikers on homicide and robbery charges. Two other complaints against Green have previously been filed: one for allegedly hitting a correction officer in August and another for allegedly splashing a correction officer with an unknown substance in March.
Whitfield was being held on weapons and attempted homicide charges.
Whitfield’s attorney denied his client’s involvement, telling CBS2’s Tony Aiello that “No weapon was recovered” and “Any identification of him very problematical because the correction officer was being choked.” Whitfield claims he was in his cell at the time of the attack.
The suspects are believed to be members of the Bloods gang, Grymes reported.
“The inmate that perpetrated the attack, had blood on his sneakers, blood on his clothing and he was the individual that was identified by the correction officer as the assailant,” said Seabrook.
“I am outraged by this horrific assault,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte. “Attacks against the hardworking men and women who serve in our department are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack horrible, and has reached out to talk with Calderon.
“I think the individuals who did it are going to have a lot more time in prison,” de Blasio said.
But the mayor vowed that reforms being instituted at Rikers will continue – for instance, eliminating solitary confinement.
“Punitive segregation wasn’t working,” the mayor said. “It wasn’t humane, that was the justice department concern, but it also wasn’t working. It was making people more violent, not less violent.”
Sources said Calderon works in a division of Rikers that handles young adults, ages 18 to 21, and has been on the job for three years.
Rikers Island was placed on lockdown in response to the attack, WCBS 880’s Lamb reported.
“Safety is our top priority and we will continue to take every step to ensure the safety and security of our staff and inmates,” Ponte said. “As part of our comprehensive reforms, we have already tightened entrance procedures to keep weapons and contraband out of our jails, bolstered security camera coverage and redesigned our emergency response teams to get to officers faster when they are in a dangerous situation. We also are issuing a new use of force policy that will give our officers additional guidance when they are placed in situations where force may be necessary for the safety and security of staff and inmates.”
Ponte said the lockdown will remain in place during the search for the weapon used in the attack on Calderon as well as other contraband, Aiello reported.
Seabrook said a lack of punishment gives rise to attacks on correction officers.
“I’m thankful that the correction officer is alive.” said Seabrook. “It’s unfortunate, but I do believe as the president of the organization, there will be a correction officer killed at the hands of an inmate because there is no penalty for what they do.”