Detention officer brutally attacked by inmate as Harris County Jail deals with staffing shortages

Brooke Taylor Image
Monday, July 24, 2023
Harris County detention officer brutally beaten on the job by inmate
A Harris County Jail detention officer brutally beaten by an inmate while conducting 30-minute rounds blames staffing shortages on the attack.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A Harris County Jail detention officer was brutally beaten and attacked by an inmate, according to the sheriff's office.

J. Valdiviez has been with the sheriff's office since October and was doing 30-minute routine checks when an inmate attacked him from behind on July 21. He has been released from the hospital but tells ABC13 that he suffered a broken nose, has stitches in his mouth, and is swollen.

A source told ABC13 the attack was caught on camera and described it as brutal.

"I remember him coming from behind and fighting on the stairwell," Valdiviez said. "The last thing I remember is waking up partially in the ambulance and the hospital."

The inmate now charged with aggravated assault of a public servant is Christian Dillard, 23, who has a lengthy criminal history. He was charged with capital murder in 2021 and has been charged several times with assaulting a public servant.

Valdiviez blames staffing shortages on the attack.

"Normally, it should be a three-man pod, but under the circumstances of short staffing, there was a two-man pod that day," Valdiviez said.

Staffing issues combined with a jail population at its highest in over a decade is something ABC13 has been reporting for years. According to the Texas Commission on jail standards, Harris County is still non-compliant following a February inspection. The jail failed in many areas - including visual checks on inmates within the required time.

"If we had more people, I feel none of this would have been possible," Valdiviez said. "You can tell when it's short-staffed. We feel it."

RELATED: Harris County Jail inspection report shows troubling staffing shortage impacting inmates and staff

In March, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who runs the jail, asked commissioners for help improving staffing, with 150 open positions.

"I can't fill them because there just aren't enough persons willing to do this work for the pay we offer," Gonzalez said.

ABC13 reached out to the sheriff's office to ask about staffing levels at the time of the attack.

Valdiviez wants to return to his passion and work but is sharing what happened because he believes it is time for effective solutions and action.

"The moral of the story is I don't want to wait for someone else to get hurt, or for someone else to possibly lose their life," Valdiviez said. "I love what I do, and I would love to continue doing what I love to do, but also, I want to use this as a lesson, not just for myself but to bring awareness to ensure safety for officers."

Family members created a GoFundMe to cover medical bills and other expenses.

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SEE ALSO: Lawsuit claims staffing shortage at Harris County Jail led to 19-year-old's murder