Phoenix, AZ – Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Detention Officer Gene Lee died in the line of duty on Wednesday night after having been attacked by an inmate inside the jail the day prior.
The incident occurred at the Lower Buckeye Jail at approximately 8 a.m. on Tuesday, KNXV reported.
The suspect, accused child rapist Daniel Davitt, choked Detention Officer Lee in an unprovoked attack and then threw him to the ground, bashing his head off of the floor, according to Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Pezone.
"While at work, without any initial interaction leading him to believe there's a potential threat, he was attacked by an inmate," Sheriff Pezone explained, according to The Arizona Republic.
"The inmate caught him off-guard, grabbed him by his throat and then swept his legs out from under so aggressively that when he was knocked off balance and thrown to the floor, the first part of his body to strike the cement was his head,” the sheriff said.
Detention Officer Lee, 64, was knocked consciousness during the assault.
Two other detention officers immediately rushed to his aid and restrained Davitt, The Arizona Republic reported.
Detention Officer Lee was rushed to the hospital, where surgeons worked to alleviate pressure on his brain by removing excess blood, KNXV reported.
The wounded hero fought for his life, but succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday night.
"Earlier tonight, Detention Officer [Gene] Lee, surrounded by his family, passed away," the MCSO said in a statement. "Under these tragic circumstances and out of respect for the Lee family, MCSO will not be making any further statements tonight. Please keep the entire Lee family, friends and his MCSO colleagues in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
Sheriff Pezone said that Detention Officer Lee’s killer was “nothing more or less than a criminal predator with no respect for authority, for human life, or for the community,” The Arizona Republic reported.
Davitt, 59, has been transferred to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office detention facility and is expected to face charges for Detention Officer Lee’s murder.
“We see what happens in the streets with our deputies and with the officers and the challenges that they face every day and the threats that they face," Sheriff Pezone said. "But it is not spoken of often enough that the men and women who work inside the jail system face similar threats on a daily basis."
Detention Officer Lee served the MCSO for six years.
"You may believe that because we have signed on for a job such as this that violence is an expectation and being harmed [or] injured in the line of duty is something that we just take as a part of the job," the sheriff said. "These are real people with real families. And it affects them the same way it would affect anyone else."
Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said that Detention Officer Lee’s killer will be brought to justice.
“I want to be very clear that violence against law enforcement, first responders, public safety, will not be tolerated," Adel said. "The County Attorney's Office is committed to holding those offenders accountable.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also released a statement in the wake of Detention Officer Lee’s murder, according to The Arizona Republic.
“Maricopa County Detention Officer Gene Lee put his life on the line to keep his fellow citizens and officers safe. His loss is felt by all Arizonans,” the governor said. “My sincere condolences go out to his family and loved ones."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Detention Officer Gene Lee, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Detention Officer Gene Lee, your life mattered.