Okla. CO honored for valor after being stabbed in neck by inmate

Despite significant injury, Sgt. Dustin Willbanks helped his partner subdue the inmate before others could be hurt

By Derrick James
McAlester News-Capital
MCALESTER, Okla. — An Oklahoma State Penitentiary correctional officer who survived being stabbed in the neck with a pencil during a 2021 attack is the recipient of state and national Medal of Valor awards.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Sgt. Dustin Willbanks was recently named the recipient of the 2021 ODOC Medal of Valor Award for his courage during an Oct. 8, 2021, attack in which an inmate stabbed the officer in the neck with a pencil.

Willbanks and his shift partner, Sgt. Mandi Morgan, attempted to escort a maximum-security inmate to the shower, according to ODOC. The inmate emerged from his cell handcuffed but still able to grip a sharp pencil before using it to stab Willbanks, according to ODOC.

Sgt. Dustin Willbanks
Sgt. Dustin Willbanks (Contributed via KFOR)

"It went in straight through the front and right back," Willbanks said in a press release. "It missed my esophagus by one-eighth of an inch."

Despite the pencil still in his neck, Willbanks helped his partner subdue the inmate before others could be hurt. After the inmate was secured, Willbanks then walked himself to the infirmary before being transported to McAlester Regional Health Center.

The inmate, identified in court records as 24-year-old Shawn Black, was charged in Pittsburg County District Court with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for the attack on Willbanks. Black is serving two concurrent 20-year sentences for two 2016 Tulsa robberies.

Willbanks returned to duty within a week of receiving the injury according to OSP Warden Jim Farris, who said Willbanks' eagerness to resume his responsibilities so quickly was "commendable."

"Even after being attacked, Sgt. Willbanks used his training and dedication to subdue and control the inmate," ODOC's Chief Administrator of Institutions Jason Bryant said in a press release. "Willbanks embodies the definition of what we expect in a correctional officer—good judgment, resourceful, professional, and self-disciplined."

Along with his ODOC award, Willbanks will also receive three other national awards in recognition of his heroism and professionalism shown during the attack.

On April 27, the National American Association of Wardens and Superintendents will award Willbanks the Medal of Valor during the organization's annual conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Willbanks will also receive the One Voice United Medal of Honor in Washington, D.C., at a banquet set to take place during May's Law Enforcement Week.

The Correctional Peace Officers Foundation will honor Willbanks in June in Reno, Nevada. The CPO foundation recognizes those in corrections who have survived a serious assault, injury or catastrophic event.

"Every day, correctional officers across the state do heroic work, whether it be through changing the life of an inmate with their professionalism and compassion or by protecting their fellow officers and other inmates," ODOC Director Scott Crow said in a press release. "Sgt. Willbanks embodies everything we hope to find in a correctional officer. His selflessness and dedication to his profession were on full display that day. We're extremely thankful for his rapid recovery and proud to see his heroism be recognized across the country.

"I appreciate Oklahoma Corrections Professionals and Executive Director Bobby Cleveland for bringing to our attention the opportunity to have Sgt. Willbanks' valor recognized on a national level."

 (c)2022 the McAlester News-Capital (McAlester, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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