An unidentified suspect slashed a corrections officer who was guarding an inmate at Nassau University Medical Center, sparking a manhunt that included an unofficial lock down of the hospital Wednesday, officials said.
The officer was sitting in a chair outside a room on the ninth floor, where he was keeping an eye on a suspect hospitalized after being jailed on stalking and other charges, when the officer felt a pain behind his ear shortly before 11 a.m., Nassau County police said. The suspect then fled on foot before the officer could get a look at him.
“There is a possibility that he had made his way out of the building,” Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki told reporters at a news conference inside the East Meadow medical facility. “At this point in time, we feel that is likely.”
Neither a description nor photo of the suspect was immediately available, but investigators are combing surveillance video footage. Police did not disclose the name of the inmate or his ailment, but a spokesman noted that he is being questioned to see if he knew the attacker.
“There is a strong possibility that he’s armed with an edged weapon,” said Inspector Kenneth Lack, a county police spokesman. The exact type of weapon this is unknown.
Forty police officers and about as many corrections officers were methodically searching the 19-floor hospital floor by floor, questioning anyone leaving and barring those from entering.
Victor Politi, who is transitioning from acting Nassau County Police Commissioner to CEO of the hospital, said that NUMC was still providing treatment to patients rushed to the emergency room as well as those with scheduled appointments.
The officer is being treated for what was described as a minor injury.
John Jaronczyk, president of the Nassau Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said the injured officer would not have been alone if it weren’t for cuts
to the county budget.
“This attack only reaffirms why this union has vigorously called for two Correction Officers to be assigned to every hospital post at NUMC, especially since inmates are no longer housed in the secure Prison Ward at the hospital,” he said in a statement. “The officer that was slashed was working alone by himself with no other officer assigned to maintain security, provide backup and possibly even apprehend the assailant who was responsible for this vicious assault. Sadly, our warnings have fallen on deaf ears, and now a Correction Officer is permanently disfigured because of it.”