An inmate housed at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, started a fight on September 1 that ended with a prison officer assaulted and stabbed. He died on Friday from his injuries after fighting for his life in an offsite hospital for over a month.
NBC News reports that corrections officer Kenneth Bettis, 44, was stabbed by inmate Cleveland Cunningham, who was serving 20 years for a 2013 attempted murder conviction. He now faces a murder charge.
According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Bettis, a father of three and a veteran of the Alabama Army National Guard, was a “fair but firm” corrections officer. He’d been working at Holman since 2009. Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn stated,
“On behalf of the Alabama Department of Corrections, I extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Bettis’ family during this tragic loss. Officer Bettis was known among his colleagues as a firm, but fair corrections officer, and was highly respected for his work ethic and dedicated service to his profession.”
The attack apparently happened in the prison’s dining room at around 12:35 p.m. Cunningham reportedly assaulted Bettis, and stabbed him after being denied an additional tray of food. WFSA reports that Bettis was airlifted and taken to an offsite medical facility. Shortly after the stabbing, other correctional officers detained Cunningham and placed the prison on lock down while they investigated the incident.
This isn’t the first time that stabbings occurred at Holman. In March, an overnight riot involving around 100 inmates left an officer and the prison’s warden stabbed.
The first assault occurred at around 9:15 p.m., when a corrections officer tried to break up a fight between two inmates in one of the prison dorms. When the officer attempted to detain one of the inmates, he was stabbed nine times. The officer survived the attack after he was taken to an offsite medical center for treatment.
Warden Carter Davenport entered the dorm to check out the situation when another inmate stabbed him. Davenport was treated at the prison. He also survived the attack.
According to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton, the inmates started a fire outside of the dorm unit shortly after the attacks. They somehow gained access to the main gate, and started a fire on the screens and walls in the hallway area. One inmate had access to a cellphone and recorded the incident as it took place. He filmed another inmate, dressed in a white prison uniform, poking at the fire with a stick. The inmate holding the cellphone is heard saying,
“It’s going down in this b***** man. They stabbed the warden. They stabbed the police.”
Although officials remained silent about the incident, it didn’t take long for the public to find out what happened. A number of people with loved ones at Holman took to social media to ask for prayers. One woman posted on Facebook,
“I know its late. But i need help from my family and friends especially from my Sister and Brothers in Christ. I need Prayers to go up for Holman Prison the inmates the guard everyone down there in that facility. No weapon formed against them shall prosper. Thank You!!!!!!”
Horton stated that shortly after the incident, officers did a thorough search throughout the prison, looking for cellphones, “shanks,” and other forms of contraband. The two inmates who stabbed the officer and the warden were segregated from the prison’s general population and placed in “the hole,” meaning an isolated cell without any contact from other prisoners.
Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley gave his condolences to Bettis’ family, and thanked him for years of service.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Officer Kenneth Bettis during this very difficult time. Officer Bettis was a dedicated civil servant taking on the difficult role of corrections officer. I want to thank Officer Bettis and his family for his years of service to the people of Alabama, through his work at Holman Correctional Facility and his time serving in the Alabama Army National Guard.”
[Feature Image by Steve Snowden/Shutterstock]