An inmate in the same jail as Dylann Roof was able to escape his cell and land several punches on the suspected Emanuel 9 shooter following security failures, officials said Thursday.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said Roof, 22, was taken from his protective custody cell at the county jail around 7:45 a.m. Thursday and walked downstairs to take a shower. Roof, as well as other inmates in that unit, are let out individually.
Before he was able to reach the showers, inmate Dwayne Stafford, 25, of Goose Creek ran downstairs and punched Roof several times, Cannon said during a news conference. “He assaulted (Roof) for no reason,” Cannon said.
Stafford is African-American and is in jail on charges of providing false information to a police officer, strong-arm robbery and first-degree assault and battery.
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Asked if Stafford’s assault was racially motivated, Cannon said he knows of no evidence to support that. “There’s nothing I’m aware of, beyond the obvious speculation we all have given the nature of the situation,” he said.
Cannon described Roof’s injuries as “relatively minor,” including bruising around his face and back. He said Roof was in a defensive posture during the assault and did not fight back.
The sheriff said Roof and his attorney have indicated they do not want to bring charges against Stafford. Jail directors are investigating whether to file charges against Stafford for the assault, though that is difficult it when witnesses don’t cooperate, Cannon said.
Roof has been housed at the jail since being brought back from North Carolina a day after the June 17, 2015, slayings of nine parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church. Stafford was originally booked into the facility Jan. 3, 2015.
Jail officers are supposed to check the doors in that unit to make sure all cells are locked when inmates are let out separately. “We, obviously, are looking into the issue of the door lock and what may have failed there,” Cannon said.
One detention officer escorting Roof was taking a break, which is not normal protocol, and another was delivering toilet paper to another inmate. Cannon said the second officer was the one who separated Stafford and Roof within seconds of the start of the scuffle.
This has not happened before with Roof, the sheriff said, describing the incident as a “wake-up call” for officers becoming complacent in day-to-day routines. It appears that staff did not follow jail policy, Cannon said.
He did not name the jail officers but said one has experience and he believes served as a sergeant at another detention center.
“We have adequate policies in place,” Cannon said. “It’s a matter of making sure folks stay at a heightened sense of awareness and follow those policies and procedure to stay on top of these very serious inmates.”
The officers are still being interviewed, and jail officials have not determined if there will be disciplinary action taken.
The Associated Press contributed.