Exclusive: Rikers inmate warns 311 operator before attacking correction officer

RIKERS ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- In video exclusively obtained by Eyewitness News, an inmate in Rikers for robbery and felony assault is seen viciously attacking a correction officer. The attack, which occurred three months ago, left the officer unconscious with facial fractures.

7 On Your Side Investigates has learned that the inmate had warned jail officials about the attack the day before in two separate calls to 311. In those calls, inmate Joseph Cannon tells the 311 operator, "It shouldn't be to the point where I want to kill somebody. It's not an idle threat that's what I'm telling you before I do it."

Hours later, Cannon calls 311 back and again makes a threat. "I'm about to kill one of those officers. I'm about to murder somebody." The Department of Correction would not tell us whether any warning was passed on to the correction officers nor if any additional precautions were taken. But video clearly shows, the correction officer alone opening the door to Cannon's cell with the sudden attack taking the officer by surprise.

President of The Correction Officers' Benevolent Association Elias Husamudeen says, "They completely dropped the ball." He went on to say, "The call came through the Department of Correction and they did absolutely nothing to protect this correctional officer."

A week ago on Thanksgiving, another inmate attacked a Correction Captain as he made rounds in the inmate housing area. Violence is on the rise at Rikers, according to the union, because under Mayor Bill de Blasio, disciplinary sanctions have been watered down. "We can't lock them in, we can't lock them to a desk, we can't put them in segregation," Husamudeen said. "But they have not answered the question as to what can we do with them."

The most recent Mayor's Management Report shows the rate of assaults on Rikers staff is up dramatically. From 5.9 assaults a month per 1,000 inmates in 2014 to 8.4 assaults per month in the last fiscal year, a 42 percent increase.

While the correction union blames reforms, DOC Spokesman Peter Thorne says, "We use punitive segregation when necessary for violent inmates who commit heinous acts, including this individual who cowardly attacked an officer. " Thorne added, "Punitive segregation is not a one-size-fits-all solution." He added, "Any inmate who attacks our uniformed staff will face consequences, including charges and prosecution by the District Attorney's Office."

Husamudeen says they're playing with fire. "I say to the mayor and everyone else, what are you going to do? Does one of us have to be murdered in uniform before you take action?"

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