A female correction officer was found dead in an all-male maximum security prison in Abilene, Texas, on Saturday. Police are treating it as a homicide.
Mari Johnson, 55, was found unresponsive in the facility’s kitchen area at around 3 a.m. and was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The incident is another in a long list of recent killings of law enforcement workers.
Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said correctional officers have a difficult job.
“Each day thousands of men and women in gray are carrying out that critical mission,” Livingston said in a press release. “This is a tragic reminder that carrying out that mission can lead to the ultimate sacrifice. Ms. Johnson made the ultimate sacrifice to keep this state safe. She will never be forgotten.”
Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice identified the suspected as Dillion Gage Compton, according to KTXS.
Compton, who worked with Johnson in the kitchen, was convicted of sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 in 2010.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement on July 16 saying Johnson was “senselessly murdered,” while promising that the perpetrator will be swiftly brought to justice.
My statement on the murder of a Texas correctional officer by an inmate last night. Keep her family in prayer. pic.twitter.com/VSFXa9sKtc
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 16, 2016
Johnson’s family is stunned.
“The whole family is in complete shock, this is just so overwhelming to think she died so viciously,” family member Becky Johnson told KBRC.
“She has been through it, she has been on both sides,” Johnson’s son Nick told KTXS. “She was a guard who had empathy for the inmates because she had children that were inmates.”
Nick also says that his mother had complained about her unit being understaffed and suspects that she may have been left alone with inmates during the time of the attack.
“I wanted her to get out so bad, and all she wanted to do was make her 10-year mark and retire,” Nick said.
Johnson’s daughter-in-law, Heather, said: “Every officer that gets out and puts on a badge and risk their lives, everyone is important—whether if they’re in a prison or on the streets.”
The investigation conducted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is ongoing.