Anamosa, IA – An Anamosa State Penitentiary inmate murdered a correctional officer and a nurse inside the prison facility Tuesday morning, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC).
The violent attack occurred in the historic prison’s infirmary at approximately 10:15 a.m. on March 23, The Gazette reported.
The DOC did not release information regarding whether or not the suspect used a weapon.
The inmate allegedly attacked multiple other inmates and staff members during the rampage before additional prison security staff were able to get the offender restrained, according to the Des Moines Register.
Meanwhile, other members of the facility staff started “attempting life-saving first aid on the injured until paramedics arrived,” the DOC said in a statement to NBC News.
A correctional officer and a nurse both succumbed to their injuries.
Their names were not immediately released in order to provide time for next-of-kin notifications, according to the DOC.
The identity of the inmate has also not been released, The Gazette reported.
The penitentiary immediately went into lockdown and all available staff were called in, according to the Des Moines Register.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 61 President Danny Homan said he was told the suspect was trying to escape at the time of the deadly assault, The Gazette reported.
An inmate who attempted to help the injured nurse and correctional officer was also seriously injured, Homan told The Gazette.
The DOC and the Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation are handling the ongoing investigation into the deadly attacks, NBC News reported.
“No one should ever have to go to work and worry about whether they will come home or not,” Homan said in a statement, according to The Gazette.
“Unfortunately for two Iowans who had committed their lives to keeping our communities safe, they won’t be going home tonight,” he continued. “Our prayers are with their families, co-workers and loved ones during this time, and we will do everything we can to honor their memory.”
“We don’t have all the information yet about what happened this morning,” Homan added, “but as more information becomes available, we will have more to say about how we can ensure this never, ever, ever happens again.”
Homan has blasted the DOC for downplaying the severity of assaults on prison employees in the past, and has also alleged there is an understaffing issue inside the agency’s nine facilities, The Gazette reported.
“I have said for years that someday the practices of this department is going to cost somebody their life, and unfortunately, it cost two people their lives,” Homan told KCCI.
The number of workers inside Iowa’s prisons is down a staggering 40 percent since 2009, according to KCRG.
Inmates attacked prison staff at least 13 times in the past year alone, according to The Gazette.
“[Prison workers are] walking into an environment where all you have on you is your wits, your skill, your knowledge, your ability to deal with tense situations, and maybe pepper spray,” Homan told the Des Moines Register, adding that he has “concerns” about every prison facility.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the correctional officer and nurse who were murdered, The Gazette reported.
“Today, our state grieves the loss of two public servants who were attacked while on duty at the Anamosa State Penitentiary,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My prayers and deepest condolences are with their families, friends, and colleagues as they begin to cope with this senseless tragedy. We will exhaust every available resource to deliver justice to those who committed this act and bring a sense of closure and peace to the victims’ families.”
Although attacks on DOC prison staff are not uncommon, Tuesday’s deadly assaults marked the first time a DOC employee had been killed by an inmate since 1972, the Des Moines Register reported.
News of the murders rocked the town of 5,400 residents, many of whom have either worked at the prison or know someone who has, according to the paper.
“The corrections facility has been here for many, many years. It doesn’t take long for every family to have someone who has worked there,” Anamosa Mayor Rod Smith told the Des Moines Register Tuesday evening. “Any loss of life in a small community touches everyone. You try to support the families and close friends of the deceased and be there for them.”
The facility is a maximum- and medium-security prison, housing an estimated 950 male inmates, according to the paper.
About 70 percent of those prisoners are serving time for violent offenses, the Des Moines Register reported.
An estimated 321 staff members work at the facility.