Monroe corrections officer attacked by mentally ill inmate
Officer Nicholas Trout, 27, suffered fractures to his cheeks and jaw after an inmate tackled and punched him, police said. Monroe police are investigating the assault.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A 27-year-old corrections officer is at home recovering after being attacked by a mentally ill inmate at the Monroe Correctional Complex on Thursday morning.
Officer Nicholas Trout was released from Seattle's Harborview Medical Center around midnight Thursday, said Dan Pacholke, state prisons director. Trout was in "good spirits" on Friday, Pacholke said.
On Thursday night, inmate Jimi James Hamilton, 33, was transferred from the Monroe prison to the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of assault.
Monroe police, who are investigating the assault, said in a report that the incident happened around 10 a.m. in the Special Offender Unit, which houses mentally ill inmates. Police gathered details about the assault through prison surveillance video and witness accounts.
Before the attack, Hamilton had been talking to Trout about wanting to speak with a higher-ranking officer to file a grievance over some type of misconduct. When the conversation became "heated," Trout ordered Hamilton back to his cell and Hamilton initially walked away, police said.
"Suddenly, Hamilton turns around and charges toward Officer Trout while yelling. Inmate Hamilton collides with Officer Trout with a great deal of force, knocking him off his feet and onto the concrete floor," police wrote in their report.
Hamilton then climbed on top of Trout and repeatedly punched him in the face, police said. Trout was motionless the entire time and unable to defend himself. Corrections staff intervened and separated the men.
Trout suffered fractures to his cheeks and jaw, according to police.
At the time of the attack, Hamilton was among three officers watching more than 152 inmates, according to Department of Corrections (DOC) staff.
Hamilton, who is mentally ill, is serving 14 years for two Pierce County robberies and has a history of attacking prison staff members, DOC staff said.
Michelle Woodrow, director of corrections and law enforcement for Teamsters Local 117, said the union, which represents corrections officers across the state, has concerns about whether Hamilton should have been living in more restrictive housing.
"Our emphasis has always been the safety of our members working inside the prisons, and right now we're not sure the department is emphasizing their safety," Woodrow said.
While Hamilton has a history of assaulting corrections staff, Pacholke said the inmate hadn't committed such an assault in several years. He did not give specifics about past incidents.
Pacholke added that DOC staff have reviewed Hamilton's records and believe his housing was appropriate.
"This is a mental-health facility and he was in mental-health treatment. He has a history of violent behavior — 85 percent of all offenders (at DOC) have a history of violent behavior," Pacholke said.
Pacholke said that more staff assaults occur at the Special Offender Unit than anywhere else in the state because officers are handling mentally ill offenders. But the assaults tend to be minor — someone throwing a cup, swinging an arm or just acting out.
But Woodrow said an offender with such a violent history should be more restricted.
"I think that if the department doesn't change the way they are classifying offenders we're going to keep having these things occur," she said.
Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl was killed at the Monroe prison in January 2011, the first corrections officer in the state to die in a state prison in 32 years.
Inmate Byron Scherf is charged and facing a potential death sentence for strangling Biendl, 34, with an amplifier cord in the prison's chapel. Scherf, who was serving a life sentence for his third rape conviction, later confessed to the killing and is awaiting trial.
Three corrections officers were fired for their conduct the night Biendl was killed and for making inconsistent or false statements. Four others were disciplined.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.