Cook County Jail detainee attacks guard with soap bars in sock, steals keys and releases others in maximum security block

CHICAGO -- A detainee at Cook County Jail attacked three jail guards Tuesday, seriously injuring one, while stealing a guard's keys to let out other detainees in the maximum security block.

The Cook County sheriff's office said it is seeking charges against two detainees, one of whom is being held on attempted murder of a police officer, in the early morning attack at the Southwest Side jail complex.

About 3:40 a.m., a detainee returning from getting a cup of water in the Division IX block grabbed a correctional officer by the neck from behind and dragged him into his open cell, the sheriff's office said in a statement.

The officer fought his way out of the cell, but the detainee mounted the officer on the catwalk and choked him unconscious, the sheriff's office said. The detainee also allegedly used bars of soap in a sock wrapped around his wrist to attack the officer.

The detainee grabbed the unconscious officer's keys and handed them to another detainee locked in a cell, the sheriff's office said. That detainee unlocked his door and began unlocking another.

The detainee who started the attack then punched an officer who confronted him, striking the officer in the face and knocking him unconscious, the sheriff's office said. The detainee attacked a third officer who tried aiding the first unconscious officer, knocking him to the ground.

A sergeant with a stun gun arrived and ordered the three detainees back into their cells, the sheriff's office said. The correctional officer punched in the face remains hospitalized, while the other two were treated and released.

The Chicago Sun-Times is not naming the detainees because they have not been charged in the attack.

In its statement, the sheriff's office said the attack "makes clear the dangers" correctional officers in the jail face daily.

The sheriff's office has faced criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic for not doing enough to protect detainees from the disease, including not providing enough soap.

The New York Times listed the Cook County Jail as one of the top coronavirus hot spots in the nation. As of Tuesday evening, 326 detainees and 196 correctional officers at the jail have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 21 detainees who are being treated at hospitals. So far, three detainees have died of COVID-19, while another 144 have recovered from the disease.

"Despite unprecedented challenges our correctional staff face managing the jail during a pandemic, the inherit risks and threats they face day in and day out continue," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

As of Tuesday, 83% of detainees at the jail are being held for violent crimes, the sheriff's office said.

The jail population dropped nearly 25% to 4,348 after Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. mandated a sweeping review of criminal cases of hundreds of low-risk, mostly non-violent detainees.

In February, a detainee in the jail allegedly beat his cellmate to death with soap in a sock.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire - Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2020.)