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IDOC defends policies in wake of attack that killed 1 prison officer, wounded another
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PRISON DEATH

IDOC defends policies in wake of attack that killed 1 prison officer, wounded another

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The Indiana Department of Correction said Tuesday it regularly searches prisoners' cells for contraband and provides staff members with protective equipment to prevent knife attacks within its facilities.

The department provided a statement to The Times in response to questions about a stabbing Sunday at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City that led to the death of Lt. Eugene Lasco, 57, and wounded Sgt. Padrick Schmitt, 22.

Lasco's homicide marked the fourth fatal stabbing at Indiana State Prison since 2017. In the three other cases, inmates were killed.

The Department of Correction said it works to prevent inmates from creating makeshift knives by routinely searching cells and cellblocks and prisoners' property for any contraband.

"All of our facilities have policies and procedures on what is allowed into IDOC facilities, and what is prohibited, based on safety and security factors," the department said.

IDOC provides staff with protective gear, including multiple versions of protective vests, and other items such as chemical spray to de-escalate situations with prisoners, a spokeswoman said.

"Staff are trained in how to respond to multiple types of situations with offenders, including de-escalating situations and using physical force to protect themselves and others inside the facilities," the department said.

Details surrounding how an inmate allegedly obtained the stabbing instrument used against Lasco and Schmitt have not yet been released.

Lasco was fatally stabbed about 2:30 p.m. Sunday after rushing to the aid of Schmitt, who was attacked and stabbed multiple times by inmate Tymetri Campbell, 38, IDOC said.

Lasco and Schmitt were taken to Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City, where Lasco was pronounced dead. 

Schmitt was transferred to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, where he was in stable condition Monday, police said.

IDOC Commissioner Robert Carter ordered Monday that flags to be flown at half-staff at all department facilities in Lasco's honor.

Per protocol, Gov. Eric Holcomb will direct flags to be flown at half-staff in LaPorte County on the day of Lasco's services. Details of his services have not yet been announced. 

Campbell was being held on preliminary charges, including murder, according to Indiana State Police. No formal charges had been filed as of Tuesday, online records showed.

Campbell, who is serving a 130-year prison sentence for three murders in Marion County, has been moved to the Westville Correctional Facility, records showed.

Details about what type of stabbing instrument was used to kill inmate Daniel L. Heflin, 30, also have not been released.

Heflin, who was originally from Goshen and was serving a sentence for murder in Elkhart County, died from a stab wound to the right side of his head, LaPorte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said.

Heflin's homicide remains under investigation, Indiana State Police Sgt. Ted Bohner said. 

Other inmates stabbed to death at the prison include Gerald A. Wharry Jr., 23, in 2019 and Willie L. Steele, 49, in 2017, records show.

Steele was delivering breakfast trays on the second floor of the cell house about 4:28 a.m. July 26, 2017, when he arrived at cell 250 and placed a tray on the door, according to LaPorte Superior Court records.

At that time, "an object came out of cell 250 and struck Steele in the stomach/chest area," records state. The object appeared to be a "white or light-colored pole."

Steele collapsed and appeared to strike his head on a guardrail. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The inmate in cell 250 was Francisco Amaro, 36, who was convicted last year of murdering Steele and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Charging documents in Wharry's murder case do not include a description of the weapon used to kill him.

Wharry walked up a back stairwell in cell block C west the night of Sept. 19, 2019, and got into a fight with a man on a fourth-floor landing, court records state. The fight occurred just out of view of a surveillance camera.

After the fight, Wharry walked back down the stairs and puddles that appeared to be blood began to form at the bottom of the stairs, records say. Wharry was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy showed Wharry died from multiple stab wounds, records state.

Inmate Michael Ayers, 27, was charged in January 2020 with murder. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in January 2022.

Ayers was seen near the crime scene in surveillance video and later was observed wiping down the bars to his own cell, records allege.

An investigation showed DNA from under Wharry's fingernails likely matched Ayers, court documents state.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into LaPorte County Jail

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