File / CTNewsJunkie Credit: Christine Stuart photo

A Connecticut correction officer was recovering from head injuries following a Saturday attack that left him unconscious on the floor of a housing unit at MacDougall Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. 

The officer was transported by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford as a result of an assault by an incarcerated man, Samuel Alicea, Jr., according to an agency incident report.

Security camera footage of the incident viewed by CTNewsJunkie showed more than a half dozen men wearing white t-shirts and sweatpants milling around a housing unit day room at around 8:20 p.m. The staff member rushed into view from offscreen and approached the man identified in the report as Alicea. 

The two appeared to exchange words before Alicea abruptly punched the officer in the face. The officer collapsed to the ground, where he remained motionless as his attacker turned and chased a second CO who was in the unit. 

Alicea hurled a trash barrel at the second officer, knocking him briefly to the floor as responding staff members hurried into the day room. According to the report, staff found their colleague “lying on the ground in the unit covered in blood” when they arrived. 

Prison officials notified the state police and placed the facility on lockdown following the incident. In an email, a spokesperson for the Department of Correction said the facility returned to normal operations on Monday. The statement described relatively minor injuries.

“One Officer was sent to a local hospital for treatment of a bloody lip, where he was treated and released. He has since returned to work,” the DOC spokesperson said.

Union officials said the injured officer was treated and released from the hospital later that evening and was recovering at home.

According to the report, several of the incarcerated men assigned to the housing unit refused to return to their cells as staff members responded to the assault. One other officer was punched during the incident and a third had coffee thrown on him, according to the document. Alicea was issued a disciplinary ticket, as were three other men who staff said participated in the incident. 

Alicea was being held at the prison on a $2.5 million bond while awaiting court proceedings on a gun charge, according to state records. 

During a remote press conference on Monday, members of AFSCME Local 391, the union representing correction workers at the Suffield prison, said that the attacker was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

After spending Saturday night on lockdown, the facility returned to normal operations on Sunday, union officials said. They argued that the incident raised safety and mental health concerns for the staff members involved and that the prison should have remained on lockdown for several days in order to allow staff time to decompress.

“To see your coworker and your friend get punched in the face and then they’re lying unconscious on the floor for minutes — it’s a traumatic thing to see,” said Doug LaMountain, an officer and member of the union’s executive board.

LaMountain called on the state to improve its mental health support for staff members who experience trauma.

“We’re no different than EMTs or police or anyone else that deals with traumatic and difficult incidents,” he said.

The assault occurred just a day after Gov. Ned Lamont visited the prison complex to deliver a commencement speech at a graduation for seven incarcerated men who completed a college degree program through the University of New Haven and the Yale Prison Education Initiative.