Crime & Courts
Inmates saved deputy's life during attack, sheriff's office says
TAMPA - The detention deputy was sitting at his desk when the inmate attacked. The deputy is 64; the inmate 40 years his junior. Deputy Kenneth Moon had another disadvantage: He was the sole deputy in a jail pod that houses 62 inmates. The only nearby people who could help him were there because they have been charged with attempted murder, home invasion, drug dealing. And yet they did. The first one, Jerry Dieguez Jr., is in jail on an armed home invasion charge. When he saw inmate Douglas Burden put Moon in a chokehold, Dieguez didn't hesitate.He ran behind the desk and landed a haymaker of a punch on Burden. Inmates Hoang Vu and Terrell Carswell also provided backup. Vu is charged with attempted murder; Carswell with robbery, marijuana possession, cocaine trafficking and failure to register as a sex offender. He also has a charge of obstructing an officer. While Dieguez, Vu and Carswell kept Burden off the deputy, another inmate came charging over. David Schofield, who's in jail on aggravated assault and battery charges, reached over to the deputy, took his radio and called for help. The inmates are credited with saving their jailer's life. "Their past acts aside, you know, you've got to applaud them for what they did," said sheriff's Col. Jim Previtera. Previtera said Burden had Moon in a classic chokehold, one used in martial arts. "It cuts off the blood supply," he said, "and if it's applied properly can actually crush the windpipe or the trachea." Deputies eventually restrained Burden, 24, and put him in confinement. He has been in jail since March 14 on driving under the influence and drug trafficking charges, records show. A charge of battery on a law enforcement officer has been added after Monday's attack. The sheriff's office will send letters to the rescuers' attorneys to be used in court on the inmates' behalf, Previtera said. That so many inmates came to Moon's rescue "speaks volumes for the respect he's garnered from these men under his control and in his custody," he said. Haydee Oropesa, attorney for inmate Hoang Vu, said she hopes the Hillsborough County State Attorney's office takes into account Vu's actions. "He is an inmate that acted with care and compassion to another human being,'' Oropesa said. "I hope it does help him." Chris Watson, felony bureau chief with the Hillsborough County Public Defender's Office, said the action taken by the inmates won't wipe out the charges against them but might help during mitigation to possibly receive a lesser sentence. "Is it possible that what they did could help these gentlemen?" Watson said. "I think yes. It's possible." "We are certainly happy that someone stepped in to help someone who is in a vulnerable position," Watson said. "That people stepped up and protected the deputy is a great thing." Watson said he has been at the Orient Road and Falkenburg Road jails and met with inmates in the open area where they are held. He said it can be intimidating seeing so many people in one closed in area. "You have an appreciation for the risk those deputies take," Watson said. Deputy Anthony Brown works in the unit and knows Moon and many of the inmates. He said the inmates' actions showed there is more to their character than the crimes they are charged with. "You would think that they would walk away, so somewhere in their hearts, there must be some goodness,'' Brown said. Brian Rogers is the sheriff's office's trainer for detention deputies. He said Moon did not have his radio holstered on his hip when he was attacked. The radio has a panic button that sends out a signal to jail officials that a deputy needs help. "I don't think he had his radio on him at the time,'' Rogers said. "I think he just got surprised. The radio was on his desk and now he's kind of left helpless without any type of communication.'' Moon, a 22-year veteran, is home recuperating from his wounds. He was stunned after watching the surveillance video of the incident. "He is understandably shaken by this sudden, random and violent attack, and clearly he recognizes the ramifications of what could have happened in this situation," Previtera said.
Reporters Josh Poltilove and Jose Patino Girona contributed to this report.