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‘One of the scariest times in my life': CO details terrifying attack by Rikers detainee

“I’ve never seen another human being look at someone like that, he had this look in his eyes, like you’re not getting out of here if you have a pulse,’” CO Kristen Lonnborg said

Rikers Island NYC

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Correction Officer Kristen Lonnborg said she will never forget the expression on the face of a Rikers Island detainee she said attacked her Saturday, bit her left wrist and spit on her as she was trapped between two cell security doors.

“I’ve never seen another human being look at someone like that, he had this look in his eyes, like you’re not getting out of here if you have a pulse,’” she recalled in an interview with the Daily News .

Lonnborg, 30, told The News Monday she was on her post at the West Facility Saturday morning when detainee Latif Gina asked for a cup of hot water.

The jail was initially built to hold people with communicable diseases, like HIV. But it is also used for detainees with histories of violating rules.

Gina’s cell was secured with an outer door and an inner door with a space in between she said. She was already aware that she had to be cautious in dealing with Gina, who, she said, has more than 300 jail incident reports filed against him.

But hours before the incident, Gina had been inexplicably removed from security watch — a setup where an officer is tasked to personally monitor a troublesome detainee every 15 minutes and track it in a log book, Lonnborg said.

“I told Gina, ‘Give me a second. I need you to step behind the inner door,’” she said. “I did everything by the book. I pulled another officer over to help. The second door closed and the light turned green which means it’s supposed to be secure. The only reason I opened the first door was because there was a green light on the second door.”

Lonnborg stepped between the two doors to give Gina the water. But it appears the door was not secure and may have malfunctioned because Gina suddenly ripped it open, according to jail records.

“You hear sometimes about mentally ill inmates who suddenly get superhuman strength, his strength came out,” Lonnborg said. “He ripped the door open. My partner is standing in the crack of the outer door.

“I’m screaming at her to move and she’s not moving. I think she froze.”

Gina pulled off Lonnborg’s body camera and smashed it on the floor, punched her, tore at her hair, and bit her left wrist, according to records.

“I am screaming at him, fighting back with everything I have, she said. “I am fighting for my life. He had a look of murder in his eyes. He’s shouting, ‘I’m gonna f—–g kill you b—h. I’m begging for him to stop while I’m screaming for my partner. I just wanted to get out.”

But the other officer didn’t or couldn’t intervene, according to Lonnborg. “She wasn’t moving. She didn’t help me at all. I don’t know how but I finally got him off of me,” she said. “I literally had to crawl out of the area.”

Lonnborg grabbed a radio and transmitted a distress signal. Other correction officers soon came running. Two officers went in Gina’s cell and retrieved the shattered pieces of the body camera from the toilet, Lonnborg said.

“It was in nine pieces, the head of the camera was ripped off,” she said. “There’s no other reason for an inmate to destroy a camera but that he wanted no evidence of what he did.”

Lonnborg was treated at a hospital for the bite and placed on a seven-day regimen of pills to counteract any diseases she might contract from the bites and the spitting.

Doctors recommended a 30-day regimen because Gina’s bites had broken her skin. But she said she was told that would cost her roughly $4,300 out of pocket.

“I’m the victim of an assault on duty — why am I paying for medication? It’s insane to me,” she said.

But she said she was moved by the show of support she received from her colleagues.

“It’s a beautiful thing, how many people in positions of power came to make sure i was OK,” she said. “My warden, Ronald Miller, drove to my house. Other people checked on me.”

Lonnborg said she is troubled by the bill presented as banning solitary confinement in the jails expected to be passed Wednesday by the City Council.

“Not every inmate is a bad person, some are just troubled,” she said. “But these laws are dangerous. Inmates already feel like they barely get in trouble. Now, they are going to say, ‘You can’t even lock me down.’ More officers are going to get assaulted.”

Lonnborg went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, graduating in 2019. She interned for the Correction Department before joined the agency as an officer in December 2021 .

Her dad Michael Lonnborg, 61, was a correction officer for 20 years. Notably, he labored at Ground Zero and worked in the morgue after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

“My father is my best friend. He is my hero,” she said. “I grew up very close to him. I am following in his footsteps.”

She said she plans to take a couple of days off but intends to go back to work soon.

“I laugh now to try not to cry, you know?” she said. “It’s the look in that guy’s eyes as that door was being ripped open that I’ll never forget. That was one of the scariest times in my life.”

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