Corrections Officer Rhonda Russell shot and killed by friendly fire inside court facility

She was fighting with an inmate for control of her weapon

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BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. — A Pennsylvania corrections officer has been killed in the line of duty. Her death occurred as she fought with an inmate for control of her firearm.

Corrections Officer Rhonda Jean Russell of the Blair County Jail was reportedly killed by friendly fire as she struggled with an inmate who grabbed her weapon, authorities said Thursday, KTIV reported.

The inmate had been taken from the Blair County Jail to Central Court in Altoona for a hearing Wednesday when he disarmed Russell, the Pennsylvania State Police said.

Authorities said a police officer who was in the building opened fire on the inmate to stop him from harming Russell. Tragically, the corrections officer was struck by gunfire.

Russell, 47, of Altoona, was pronounced dead at UPMC Altoona, according to State Police.

Although authorities did not identify the officer involved in the shooting, Altoona Police Sgt. Matt Plummer confirmed it was a member of their department.

A tribute to Russell on the the Officer Down Memorial Page reads as follows:

Corrections Officer Rhonda Russell was shot and killed after a struggle for her firearm at the holding area of the Central Court building at 615 Fourth Street in Altoona.

A male inmate attacked and disarmed Officer Russell while waiting for a court hearing. An Altoona police officer who was in the court building saw the altercation between Officer Russell and the suspect. The suspect had restrained Officer Russell and aimed the weapon at the officer. The officer shot at the suspect, but the suspect moved Officer Russell into the line of fire. She was transported to UPMC Altoona, where she succumbed to her wounds.

The inmate who attacked Officer Russell was charged with murder of the second degree and murder of a law enforcement officer of the second degree.

Officer Russell had served 16 years with the Blair County Prison. She is survived by her three sons and parents.

State Police did not identify the inmate, although they confirmed he’s been charged with criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, kidnapping and related charges, KTIV reported.

State Police and the Blair County Prosecutor’s Office are continuing the investigation.


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