Friendly fire kills Pa. CO struggling with inmate in court

Rhonda Jean Russell had just been disarmed by the inmate when a police officer opened fire to protect her from harm


Associated Press

ALTOONA, Pa. — A jail officer was shot and killed at a Pennsylvania courthouse by what appears to be friendly fire during a struggle with an inmate who had grabbed her weapon, and authorities said Thursday they were investigating how it happened.

Rhonda Jean Russell is survived by her three sons and parents; she was 47.
Rhonda Jean Russell is survived by her three sons and parents; she was 47. (Officer Down Memorial Page)

The inmate had been taken from the Blair County jail to Central Court in Altoona for a hearing Wednesday when he disarmed corrections officer Rhonda Jean Russell, state police said. 

Authorities said a law enforcement officer in the building opened fire on the inmate to stop him from harming Russell, who was struck by the bullet.

Russell, 47, of Altoona, was pronounced dead at UPMC Altoona, according to state police.

State police did not identify the officer who opened fire, but Altoona Police Sgt. Matt Plummer said an Altoona police officer was involved. 

State police said the inmate was being charged with criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, kidnapping and related charges.

State police and the Blair County prosecutor's office are investigating.

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