Prison guard dies of injuries in alleged attack over towel

A Pennsylvania prison guard who confiscated a towel blocking a view of an inmate’s bunk and was attacked died of his injuries Monday, the first state correctional officer to be killed by a prisoner in nearly 40 years, corrections officials said.

Sgt. Mark Baserman, 61, was punched repeatedly and kicked in the head Feb. 15 by inmate Paul Jawon Kendrick, who was serving a life sentence for murder at the state prison in Somerset, the officials said.

“The minute we learned of this unprovoked, brutal attack on Sgt. Baserman and another officer who came to his aid our hearts sank,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in a statement. “We are greatly saddened by Sgt. Baserman’s death and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Kendrick was arraigned Monday on assault charges in the alleged attack on Baserman and a second guard. Officials said Kendrick has been transferred to another prison. He did not have a defence attorney listed in court records.

State police said in an arrest affidavit that the attack, captured on video, began with Kendrick, 22, striking Baserman in the face, and then punching him in the head about 10 times. After he kicked Baserman in the head, the guard was unresponsive.

Kendrick also is accused of striking the other guard several times, rendering him briefly unconscious. The other officer was treated at a hospital.

The head of the state corrections officers’ union called Baserman a hero and urged the prison agency to ban heavy boots.

“These boots are being used as weapons and must be removed immediately,” said Jason Bloom, president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

Baserman began working for state prisons in 2007 and was at Cresson State Prison before going to Somerset, 70 miles (about 110 kilometres) southeast of Pittsburgh. He was promoted to sergeant in 2016.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in 2015 that Kendrick was convicted of fatally shooting a man who had been playing basketball after the victim said he was from another neighbourhood.

The last time a state prison guard was killed by an inmate was in 1979, at a correctional institution near Philadelphia.

A guard was killed at a federal prison in northeastern Pennsylvania in 2013.

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