Trinidad prisoner beats up guard

24 Jun

A Trinidad correctional officer was severely beaten by an inmate using his fists and shoes, shattering the officer’s face.

Duane Garcia, 52, was in fair condition Tuesday at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo two days after the beating in the Trinidad Correctional Facility’s recreational yard. At the time, the yard was filled with up to 300 inmates.

After the assault, Harold Martin, 41, who is serving an eight-year sentence for a burglary conviction in El Paso County, was sent to the highest-security state prison, Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City.

The attack was unusual for the Trinidad prison — categorized just above minimum security — where many offenders are nearing release, Garcia said. Martin was being housed there despite five previous fights, according to state records.

Reached by cellphone Tuesday, Garcia said he wrote Martin up for a rule violation Saturday, the day before the attack, when Martin sat in a prohibited area of the cafeteria.

Later that day he looked up Martin’s disciplinary record on a database and learned that the inmate had been disciplined seven or eight times at the prison in the past three months, seemingly without consequence.

“He shouldn’t have been there,” said Garcia, his voice muffled because of injuries to his jaw. “I guess it took this before his behavior got the attention it deserved.”

Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, disputed Garcia’s characterization of Martin’s record. She said according to computer records, Martin was disciplined in 2005 and 2006 for five fights and other violations. He was disciplined again in 2008, she said.

He was paroled and fled to Arizona, where he was arrested on a drug charge in 2009 and sent to the Trinidad prison. Based on his infractions, he was in the appropriate prison, she said.

“This is one of those cases where we have to remind ourselves that even though it’s lower security, it’s still a prison,” she said.

Garcia, a career construction worker, said he got a job as a guard 1 1/2 years ago because of the economic downturn.

Garcia was one of only three correctional officers supervising a yard with hundreds of inmates when he was attacked. He had just stepped out of a gymnasium into the exercise yard when Martin punched him from behind and he fell, he said.

“He started kicking me in the face,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s jaw is nearly a half-inch out of alignment. His cheeks and eye sockets are crisscrossed with fractures.

Sanguinetti said a prosecutor will decide what charges to file against Martin.


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