116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A nurse and a correctional officer at the Anamosa State Penitentiary were killed Tuesday morning in what is believed to be the first fatal assault by an inmate in decades, officials said.
Iowa Department of Corrections said in a statement it was investigating the assault, which took place about 10:15 a.m. in the prison infirmary. The department did not say whether the inmate used any sort of weapon in the attack.
The two victims have not been identified, pending family notifications and the investigation, the department said. Prison staff attempted giving first aid to them until paramedics arrived.
The inmate - who also was not named - was restrained after the attack by security staff.
Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, the public union that represents Iowa correctional workers, said in an interview he heard the inmate was trying to escape when the assault occurred. Another inmate who tried to help the female nurse and male correctional officer was seriously hurt, Homan said. He said employees were being kept at the prison until the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation can investigate the attack.
'Unfortunately for two Iowans who had committed their lives to keeping our communities safe, they won't be going home tonight,” Homan said in a statement. '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, but as more information becomes available, we will have more to say about how we can ensure this never, ever, ever happens again.”
Homan told the Associated Press he believed these were the first Iowa prison workers to be killed by an inmate since he started at AFSCME in 1988.
The union leader has criticized the Corrections Department, which operates nine institutions in the state, for having inadequate staffing and downplaying previous assaults on prison employees. Besides Tuesday's attack, the prison system had reported a dozen staff assaults by offenders in the last year.
Meanwhile, Iowa's prisons have suffered outbreaks of COVID-19 among offenders and staff, which has caused officials to restrict offenders' time outside their cells. Nineteen offenders and two staff members have died from the disease.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she will order all flags flown at half staff on the day or days of internment to honor the Anamosa staff killed.
'Today, our state grieves the loss of two public servants who were attacked while on duty at the Anamosa State Penitentiary,” she 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.”
The Anamosa penitentiary, about 25 miles northeast of Cedar Rapids, is a medium/maximum prison with about 950 offenders and 320 staff, according to the Corrections Department website. The prison's first cell house was completed in 1875, making it the oldest working prison in the state.
Andy McKean, a former state legislator from Anamosa, said he got the news while he and his wife were traveling in West Virginia. He said Anamosa is a very close-knit community and the penitentiary is the largest employer, so it's likely many residents will know the victims who were killed.
'It just underscores what a dangerous job that these folks have and that every day when they enter the institution there are tremendous risks involved,” McKean said. 'People need to understand that and appreciate it.”
Sen. Todd Taylor, of Cedar Rapids, who is ranking Democrat on the House-Senate Justice Systems Budget Subcommittee, called the deaths 'a horrible tragedy.”
'In addition to ensuring that justice is served, we must also ensure that state leaders address chronic understaffing and other systemic problems at our prisons before we have more deaths,” he said in a statement.
Assaults on Iowa prison staff in the last year
March 10, 2021: Fort Madison correctional officer struck in the head by an offender.
Feb. 22, 2021: Anamosa offender punches correctional officer in the face. That officer and another helping get the offender under control both treated for minor injuries.
Dec. 9, 2020: Three correctional officers assaulted by offender at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. Officers attempting to transport offender for medical treatment when he unexpectedly started punching officers, Corrections reported.
Nov. 24, 2020: Fort Dodge correctional officer punched by offender.
Nov. 16, 2020: Fort Madison officer struck by offender in a living unit at the penitentiary. Officer treated for injuries to the face.
Sept. 27, 2020: Anamosa officer struck in the face by an offender. Another officer that responded sustained a foot injury.
Aug. 14, 2020: Fort Madison correctional officer assaulted by two inmates while conducting evening rounds.
July 29, 2020: While distributing medicine, a correctional officer at Fort Madison was punched by an offender.
July 18, 2020: An offender at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville punched and attempted to choke a correctional officer.
July 14, 2020: An offender at Anamosa struck a correctional captain from behind with a pointed piece of metal.
July 10, 2020: Several IMCC staff were injured when trying to restrain an inmate who was trying to hurt himself.
May 29, 2020: Two correctional officers at Fort Madison were punched and kicked by two offenders. No major injuries, but sharpened object was recovered from one of the offenders.
Source: Iowa Department of Corrections