Guard says he was fired after attack

June 19, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

Folorunso Eddo says he made a simple request of his employers at the Maryland Division of Correction: Don't send him back to the same guard post where six inmates jumped him and stabbed him nearly to death.

But he says prison officials refused and fired him instead.

Now, says Mr. Eddo, a 34-year-old father of two, he has two kinds of nightmares: the ones that haunt his sleep at night as he relives the attack and the ones in the day as he searches for work.

Prison officials say they have offered Mr. Eddo other positions where he wouldn't have direct contact with inmates, but that he has refused them.

Mr. Eddo says they are lying.

"If someone worked for me and they got hurt like this, I would want to help them, but that is not the case here," said Mr. Eddo, a Nigerian who came to the United States 12 years ago.

Mr. Eddo, who worked at the Maryland House of Correction Annex in Jessup, had been on the job for two months when he was attacked May 3, 1993, by a group of inmates wielding homemade knives.

Mr. Eddo, who had 78 inmates under his supervision, was jumped by six men as he was trying to lock an inmate in his cell for the night. He was stabbed once near the right eye, three times in the neck and four times in the left side of the head. The stab wound near the eye was the most serious. The homemade knife penetrated his nasal cavity and came out in his mouth.

Three men were charged in the attack and two were convicted.

An Anne Arundel Circuit jury on May 26 convicted Rodney E. Barnes, 29, of attempted murder and James Ancil, 23, of conspiracy to commit assault with intent to maim. Timothy Junior Green, who had been serving time on a drug conviction, was acquitted.

Barnes and Ancil, who were serving life sentences for murder at the time of the attack, are scheduled to be sentenced July 18 by Judge Eugene M. Lerner.

Meanwhile, Mr. Eddo says prison officials fired him rather than assign him to a position where he would not have contact with prisoners -- despite a directive from his therapist that he be assigned other duties. "When Mr. Eddo returns to his job, his duties must not include dealing directly with prisoners," Dr. Jean Frances, a Washington psychologist, said in a June 3, 1993, letter to prison officials. "In my opinion, Mr. Eddo's emotional trauma, sustained in the attack on his life in May, precludes his having any direct contact with prisoners."

Maxine Eldridge, a spokeswoman for the Division of Correction, said, "We've tried to work with him and offer him alternative placement, and he hasn't responded."

"We have not closed the door on him, not at all."

However, asked directly if Mr. Eddo had been fired, she refused to say.

She told a reporter to ask Mr. Eddo to call the Division of Correction personnel director to make "alternative arrangements." She would not be specific, however, about what alternative arrangements meant.

A letter dated Nov. 12, 1993, from Warden William L. Smith of the House of Correction notified Mr. Eddo of his dismissal. In terse language, the letter says he was being "terminated" effective Nov. 26, 1993. The notice arrived two weeks after a Nov. 4 letter from Mr. Smith ordering Mr. Eddo to report back to work.

"Your post assignment will be given to you at that time," the Nov. 4 letter says.

Mr. Eddo said that five days after he received the initial order to report back to work, he faxed a response to the warden asking what position was waiting for him.

He said the only response he received was the termination notice.

Mr. Eddo said he has looked for other work, applied for workers' compensation benefits and written to Gov. William Donald Schaefer to complain about his treatment.

His letter to the governor prompted a response from Richard A. Lanham Sr., commissioner of the Division of Correction.

"I was deeply concerned about that attack, and while we do all in our power to prevent injury to staff, assaults on staff are a direct hazard to working in the correctional field," the Feb. 1 letter says.

In the letter, Mr. Lanham says that Mr. Eddo was offered a transfer to another prison or work as a supply officer or a case management specialist but that he turned them down.

Mr. Eddo says he was never offered such jobs.

"If they even offered me the jobs that they said they offered, I would take them," he said.

Mr. Eddo, who has a degree in economics from the University of the District of Columbia, said his job search has turned up no solid leads to replace the $500 a week he could earn as a correctional officer. He and his family are getting by on what his wife earns as a cashier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and on the $287 a week he nets from workers' compensation benefits, he said.

"Financially, I'm not in a disaster boat, but the whole thing has been very frustrating," he said.

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