JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Jan 26 2011– Sentencing was deferred Tuesday for a Duval County inmate convicted of attacking a private security guard at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center with the guard’s gun last year so the judge can hear more testimony.
Shands Jacksonville Medical Centerapology in court seemingly fell on deaf ears.
“First off, every one of my victims, I’d like to apologize for the pain I’ve caused y’all and the trouble, all the trouble that I’ve caused,” Garner said.
John Scarborough, the guard who became one of Garner’s victim’s, called Garner a “menace to society.” He told the court that if Garner is released from prison, more bloodshed will follow.
John Scarborough, a private security guard, calls his attacker, Larry Garner, a “menace to society.”
“As far as the recent news, there’s been several police officers killed in the past 24 hours, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll kill (an officer),” said Scarborough, referring to 11 officers being shot this week nationwide in a two-day span.
Garner, who was being treated in the hospital in September for eating pens and razor blades, was being held in a private room. Police said he stepped through his handcuffs and attacked Scarborough, who said he’ll be scarred for life.
“I had two small bones broken in my right temple,” one security guard said. “There’s a dent in my eyebrow. It’s cracked. I’ve got nerve damage on the left side of my face under my eye.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if he would have bit me, he would have bit my finger off, chewed it up and spit it back out,” Scarborough added. “That’s just how much he wouldn’t stop.”
Garner told the judge he doesn’t know why he attacked the security guard, admitting he’s even afraid of himself.
“I know I’m wrong,” Garner said. “From this day forward, I accept responsibility. I was wrong. I just want to say I apologize, and I’m sorry.”
Garner will appear in court again for sentencing Feb. 7.
A Sheriff’s Office official said this afternoon she is trying to determine why the private guard with six months experience was assigned to the high-risk inmate, whose previous charges include twice attacking corrections officers at the Duval County jail. Also being explored are how the inmate broke partially free from his restraints, beat the guard and took his gun and what else may have led to the attack.
“I think it’s pretty dramatic an inmate was able to do the things he was able to do,” said Chief Tara Wildes of the Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division. “I consider us all very fortunate that it turned out as well as it turned out.”
The Times-Union is waiting for comment from officials of The Wackenhut Corporation, which has a security contract with the Sheriff’s Office to guard hospitalized inmates.
Wildes said Sheriff’s Office protocol for such inmate transports will be reviewed along with inquiries to be made of the GS4 Secure Solutions, the security company that has the contract with the Sheriff’s Office to guard hospitalized inmates. She said one immediate change now requires the person manning the lone corrections officer post at the hospital do additional checks of restraints on inmates kept overnight.
Security guard John Scarborough, 62, told The Florida Times-Union this morning he was able to wrestle the gun away from the man after a momentary standoff with another security guard and a corrections officer who pointed their weapons at the gunman in a hospital hallway. No shots were fired.
The rescue occurred as the gunman threatened panicked nurses that “you all better run because I’m going to start shooting.” A handful of nurses ran for cover.
Police charged Larry Garner, 19, of Jacksonville with aggravated battery and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Court records show Garner was awaiting trial after being charged with attacking corrections officers at the jail early this month and July. He was being held for sentencing after being convicted of carrying a concealed firearm and resisting arrest in June.
Scarborough said he had previously watched Garner and was aware of his pending charges. Scarborough said he felt capable of guarding Garner, who’d given him no trouble in the past after being brought to the hospital for medical treatment. He said he saw no reason to have more than one guard on Garner, despite his criminal history.
“I knew the guy,” Scarborough said.
Scarborough, a Vietnam veteran, said he’s never experienced anything like Saturday’s attack while a security guard. Previously self-employed selling gun cleaner at gun shows, Scarborough said he’s aware his new job has its dangers, but he never figured on being taken hostage.
“You’re never prepared for it,” Scarborough said. “It was quite a to do there for awhile.”
Wildes said the contracted security guards at the hospital should have known Garner could be trouble because they were aware of his criminal record and propensity to act out. She didn’t know if any corrections officers had talked to Wackenhut about Garner on this trip.
Wildes said she prefers that the company’s better trained guards watch such high-risk inmates. The Sheriff’s Office contract with Wackenhut does not address specific levels of security, she said.
“In retrospect, of course, I would have expected someone with more experience,” Wildes said. “But I can’t say somebody with just five months experience would in every case be a bad choice.”
A security company official said Scarborough’s military background and training with the company made him qualified to do the job.
“We really didn’t have any concerns he would be unable to handle those situations of guarding the prisoners,” said Danny Grizzard, senior vice president for operations of GS4 Secure Solutions, formerly known as Wackenhut.
Police Union President Nelson Cuba said the incident reinforces his argument with the Sheriff’s Office for having trained corrections officers, not security guards, watch hospitalized inmates. Wildes said the job was privatized in the 1980s primarily to save the Sheriff’s Office money. Cuba said he knows of no other Florida sheriffs have private guards watching prisoners.
“This guy had nowhere near the training that a corrections officer has in dealing with these types of situations,” Cuba said. “Our officers know how sneaky these guys can be.”
The state’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, whose duties include setting training standards for police and corrections officers, last month sought an injunction against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to stop the practice. The state attorney general’s office turned down the request, suggesting the commission further investigate of the matter.Though troubled by Saturday’s incident, Wildes said she still supports using private security guards.“Has it been perfect? No,” Wildes said. “But when we had police and corrections officers on the inmates, we had similar incidents occur.”
The attack occurred in a hospital building known as The Pavilion, which is a treatment facility across Jefferson Street from Shand’s main building, said Dan Leveton, a hospital spokesman.
Garner, wearing handcuffs, leg shackles and connecting chains, was taken to Shands from the jail Thursday night after telling jail officials he’d eaten razor blades and some type of writing instrument. Wildes said authorities believe Garner got the razor blades from another inmate.
Garner remained in the emergency room holding cell until the next morning, when he was admitted to a room on The Pavilion’s fifth floor, Wildes said. Scarborough took over watching Garner at 3 p.m., about two hours before the attack occurred, she said.
The report said Scarborough was following Garner to the room’s bathroom. Garner somehow managed to partly free his left arm, turned and began striking Scarborough in the face and head with his right wrist, which was still handcuffed. The handcuffs caused several cuts to Scarborough’s head as he struggled with Garner.
“He wanted to escape,” Scarborough said.
The struggled spilled into a hallway, where nurse Judy Davis, 45, tried to help restrain Garner. Garner pulled Scarborough’s gun from his gun belt and pointed it at Scarborough’s head as Davis ran for cover. Nurses and other staff on the floor heard Garner’s threats and began running and yelling that Garner had a gun.
Scarborough said he remembers struggling on the floor and Garner going for his weapon, but he doesn’t remember the gun being pointed at his head.
Security guard Herman Ruise, 59, was making rounds when he heard the screaming, came around a corner and saw Garner with the gun. Ruise drew his weapon and told Garner to put the gun down. Garner then pointed the gun at Ruise.
Corrections officer Russell Rhoden, 33, also making rounds, got off an elevator, heard the commotion and saw a nurse run by him as she screamed, “He has a gun.” Rhoden drew his weapon, rounded the corner and saw Garner holding the gun. Scarborough said he was facing Garner at the time.
Rhoden heard Scarborough begging for his life and saw Garner turn the gun sideways toward Ruise. Rhoden pointed his gun at Garner and told him to drop the gun he was holding. Scarborough said he had his back to Ruise and Rhoden and doesn’t remember them behind him..
Scarborough said Garner lowered the gun and he took it from him.
“I saw him look past me and I grabbed the weapon,” Scarborough said.
Garner was taken into custody and put back in jail. Scarborough was treated at the hospital and received several stitches for his wounds.
Scarborough said he appreciated the actions of his co-worker, the corrections officer and the hospital staff. He also said he planned to return to work as soon as he can.
“This is one of those things that can happen anytime to any of us,” Scarborough said. “That’s why they pay us.”
Leveton said inmates who are treated at Shands and not kept overnight are routinely cared for in areas away from the public. He said inmate patients who stay overnight are kept under guard in hospital rooms.
Leveton directed all questions about details of the incident to the Sheriff’s Office. He said Shands works diligently to ensure patients are safe and no hospital procedures have been changed as a result of Saturday’s attack.
“Our main concern is always making sure that people are safe on campus,” Leveton said. “In these cases, we leave that up to the Sheriff’s Office to make sure they guard these prisoners.”