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Hero Down: Blair Co. Corrections Officer Rhonda Jean Russell Killed By Officer While Fighting Inmate Who Disarmed Her

Altoona, PA – Blair County Corrections Officer Rhonda Jean Russell was fatally shot in the line of duty on Wednesday after an inmate attacked and disarmed her.

The incident occurred at approximately 3:15 p.m. at the Blair County Dispatch Center and Central Court building located at 615 Fourth Street, The Patriot-News reported.

Investigators said inmate Christopher Aikens, 54, had been transported from the Blair County Jail to the Central Court building for a court hearing, according to WTAJ.

Aikens was unhandcuffed to use the bathroom and was being led back to his cell when he allegedly attacked Corrections Officer Russell, 47, and took her duty pistol, police said.

An Altoona police officer heard Corrections Officer Russell fighting with the inmate and rushed to her aid, WTAJ reported.

When he opened the cell door, he saw Aikens had grabbed onto Corrections Officer Russell and was holding her at gunpoint, investigators said.

The officer fired at Aikens to save Corrections Officer Russell, but she moved into the line of fire at the last second, according to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).

The wounded corrections officer was rushed to WPMC Altoona, where she died of her injuries, The Patriot-News reported.

The Altoona officer involved in the incident has not been identified.

The PSP, which is handling the ongoing investigation into the incident, said Aikens is facing charges of criminal homicide, kidnapping, attempted criminal homicide, and other related counts, according to the Altoona Mirror.

The Blair County Prison Board (BCPB) confirmed Corrections Officer Russell’s death in a statement on Thursday, WTAJ reported.

“The Blair County Prison Board is sad to report of the tragic loss of corrections officer Rhonda J. Russell,” the statement read. “We honor and respect our corrections officers and stand by them at this difficult time. Our sympathies go out to her coworkers, family, and friends.”

Corrections Officer Russell served the Blaine County Prison for 16 years, according to her LinkedIn page.

She leaves behind her three sons and her parents, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Blair County Corrections Officer Rhonda Jean Russell, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Corrections Officer Rhonda Russell, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin


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