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Nassau probing inmate attack on corrections officer at jail, officials say

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow. Credit: P. Coughlin

A Nassau correction officer suffered a six-inch gash in his neck Thursday morning when he was assaulted by four inmates at the county jail in East Meadow, county and union officials said.

The officer was escorting an alleged Bloods gang member being held at the Nassau Correctional Center on a murder charge back to his cell in the Mental Health Housing unit at 10:30 a.m. when the inmate pulled the guard into his cell and began assaulting him, said Brian Sullivan, president of the Nassau Correction Officers Benevolent Association.

As a second officer responded to the inmate's cell, three additional inmates, including a member of the Bloods and two members or associates of the rival Crips gang, joined in the assault, Sullivan said. At some point, the first corrections officer was slashed in the neck, possibly by his metal uniform name tag which had been ripped from his shirt, he said.

"The housing area was fully secured and staff conducted searches of the inmates and housing unit," Nassau Sheriff James Dzurenda said in a prepared statement, adding that the department is investigating the incident. "The four involved inmates were subsequently removed from the unit pending investigation. No weapons were found."

The injured officer, a five-year veteran of the department who was not identified, did not require stitches. He also suffered a sprained wrist and contusions on his head and face while the second guard also suffered minor injuries, Sullivan said.

"My biggest fear was [the inmates] were going to turn on the officers and that's exactly what happened," said Sullivan, who is calling on Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas to charge the inmate with attempted murder and the other inmates with gang assault. 

Singas spokeswoman Miriam Sholder said "the matter is under investigation."

Sullivan said there has been a dramatic uptick in inmate-on-inmate violence in recent months after the county consolidated jail housing units. The facility, which housed 1,100 inmates in December, has seen its population drop to about 560, largely because of inmates released due to bail reform and coronavirus concerns, he said.

Sullivan said that the most violent inmates are now crowded together in an open dormitory-style facility, rather than being spread out in different jail buildings.

"They need to separate these violent guys from the general population," he said. "They can't have them roaming around the open dorms."

Dzurenda didn't address the specific allegations by union officials but said the jail is currently at 60% capacity and that his "primary concern is the safety of all staff and inmates." 

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