Rikers Island, NY – Six Rikers Island inmates brutally assaulted a New York City Department of Correction (NYDC) officer in a planned attack on Saturday, leaving the officer with bleeding on his brain and a broken spine (video below).
Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA) officials said that the attack was led by attempted murder suspect Steven Espinal, who became outraged after Officer Souffrant wrote him up for an infraction.
In a recorded jailhouse phone call prior to the assault, Espinal told someone at the other end of the line that he was going to “knock out this super cop,” COBA president Elias Husamudeen told The New York Times.
The gang-affiliated attack, which was captured on jail security cameras, occurred at 6:27 p.m. in the George Motchan Detention Center.
The video showed Espinal as he approached Officer Souffrant, and swiftly punched the unsuspecting officer in the face. The blow threw the officer to the floor, where Espinal and five other gang members savagely kicked and pummeled him.
Fellow corrections officers deployed pepper spray to subdue Espinal and the other inmates, who were identified as Eric Morris, Samson Walston, Nazeem Francis, Jeffrey Valdez, and Devin Burns, Husamudeen told WPIX.
The attackers were all known members of the Blood gang, and are all under 21 years of age, he said.
Souffrant was rushed to a local hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.
“He’s in a lot of pain because he has a brain injury,” the officer’s brother, Guy-Yoma Souffrant, told WPIX. “He has a fracture to his C2 vertebrae, and he’s got swelling of his brain, as well.”
Guy-Yoma said that doctors told him Souffrant’s injuries could have easily been far worse.
“He’s lucky he’s not paralyzed from the neck down,” he told The New York Times.
Husamudeen lashed out at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio after the attack, and faulted the city leader for implementing changes that put corrections officers in grave danger.
“He doesn’t give a flying ... about New York City correction officers,” he told WPIX. “Something has to be done before a correction officer loses his or her life.”
“There’s nothing stopping them from attacking correction officers,” Husamudeen said. “We are the police in the jails, and we are under attack. This mayor has taken away tools to control the environment.”
Husamudeen also criticized de Blasio for ending punitive segregation for inmates under the age of 22. Instead, the mayor advocated that therapeutic methods be used, he said.
“For us, punitive segregation has always acted as a jail within a jail,” Husamudeen explained to WCBS. “It gives us the right to segregate, [to] separate these particular types of inmates from the other inmates and from correction officers, which further protects us.”
“He took it away,” Husamudeen said. “The mayor has declared war on New York City correction officers.”
De Blasio’s office issued a statement on Sunday regarding the attack.
“The Mayor just spoke to the officer. We’ll get to the bottom of this heinous attack and hold those involved accountable. COs have one of the hardest jobs in city government - often thankless and always dangerous,” the statement said.
“What happened to our brother last night at the hands of a violent group of cowardly inmates was sickening,” Cynthia Brann, the commissioner of the NYDC, told The New York Times. “They’ll be held accountable for this crime, but right now our thoughts and concerns are with our hospitalized officer and his family. They need us now more than ever, and we will be here for them.”
The inmates who attacked Officer Souffrant were awaiting trials for charges including attempted murder, assault, attempted robbery, and burglary, The New York Times reported.
Espinal, Burns, Francis and Walston were charged with multiple counts of gang assault, obstruction of government administration, and harassment on Sunday, WCBS reported.
In 2017 alone, 850 officers were attacked by inmates at Rikers, WPIX reported.
You can see jail security footage of the incident in the video below: