TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Surveillance video showed the moment a group of inmates came to the rescue of a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detention deputy who was attacked in a jail pod.
Deputy Lillian Jimenez was called to the women’s restroom on June 7 around 1 a.m. to conduct a well-being check on inmate April Colvin, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
As Jimenez approached the restroom, inmate Bridgette Harvey, 42, walked behind the deputy and wrapped a pillowcase around her neck in an attempt to choke her. Authorities said Deputy Jimenez immediately radioed for help.
“At that moment in time, there was obviously loud noises, screams, yelling going on. It woke up a lot of the inmates who were in the pod at that time, a few of them did come around from behind and try to remove the pillow case from around the neck of the deputy,” said Merissa Lynn with the Sheriff’s Office.
Moments later, several inmates came to the deputy’s rescue.
The sheriff’s office said the nearby inmates removed the pillowcase from Deputy Jimenez’s neck and freed her from Harvey’s grip.
Seconds later, emergency responders escorted Deputy Jimenez out of the pod and placed Harvey in restraints. In addition to the pillowcase, the sheriff’s office said Harvey was also holding a comb that she had sharpened on both ends with her teeth.
“It woke up a lot of the inmates who were in the pod at that time, a few of them did come around from behind and try to remove the pillowcase from around the neck of the deputy, tried to pull away that one inmate that was attacking her,” Lynn said.
Deputy Jimenez suffered minor injuries to her neck and throat.
Mike Farrier is a retired Major with the Sheriff’s Office who served for 26 years and he knows the jail system well there.
Farrier said he was surprised by the attack, but not the response of the inmates.
“In my experience, the deputies in the jail do a great job of building relationships of understanding there is a human side to incarceration of understanding that everyone in there is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, a loved one,” Farrier said.
As a result, Farrier said the atmosphere inside a jail is often different than some expect.
“For the most part the jail environment is very peaceful, it’s very calm and as long as the deputies understand and build that rapport and understand the human side of incarceration, there’s usually no issues,” Farrier added.
He said the response by the inmates shows a lot about the relationship the deputy had with them.
“That would tell me that she’s gone a long way in establishing exactly what I said, establishing a rapport, treating them fairly, treating them like you or I would wanted to be treated if we were inside of jail facing charges.”
Harvey faces charges of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a weapon, introduction of contraband into a detention facility, and escape from confinement. Authorities said her “co-conspirator,” Colvin, also faces a charge of escape from confinement.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office later added that an investigation revealed inmate Harvey had other plans after the attack.
“We did learn that this inmate had plans to escape from confinement and those charges are now listed in the new ones that she faces because of this incident,” Lynn said.
Two other inmates were removed from the pod and all four inmates involved were moved to solitary confinement.
An investigation is ongoing
“While these inmates put our deputy in danger, there were others who did the right thing by coming to her aid, and for that, I am grateful,” Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “Thanks to the quick response of our Emergency Response Team and the inmates who showed compassion to help our deputy, a dire situation turned into the safe rescue of Deputy Jimenez. The assailant and her co-conspirator now face additional charges for assaulting her.”