FROSTPROOF — In some people’s mind, it was probably bad enough for 29-year-old Manuel Santiago Muniz that his current residence is a maximum security cell in the South County Jail in Frostproof.
Or maybe it was bad enough that he was facing attempted murder charges from a case in Lakeland.
Now, under the theory that poor decision-making can make a very bad situation even worse, Muniz has been handed an addtional charge: battery on a law enforcement officer, after it was reported that the inmate allegedly punched Polk County Sheriff’s Office Detention Deputy Julian Hodge on Saturday morning. The evidence presented by the Sheriff’s office sounds convincing, since Deputy Hodge now reportedly has a broken nose.
The sheriff’s office reports that this incident happened around 7:15 a.m. on Saturday, when Hodge went to inmate Muniz’s cell because Muniz had covered up his cell light. Inmates are prohibited from covering up the lights in their cells.
But the appearance of the corrections officer apparently did not intimidate the inmate into following orders, the sheriff’s office noted.
“When Detention Deputy Hodge went into the cell, Muniz jumped on a table and yelled at Detention Deputy Hodge that he — Hodge — was not going to touch the lights,” reported Carrie Eleazer, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “Muniz then aggressively pushed Detention Deputy Hodge.”
Hodge reacted by pulling out his “chemical agent,” or mace, as Eleazer called it, and sprayed the inmate in the face. It didn’t work, though, as far as getting Muniz to back off.
In response to the macing, “Inmate Muniz then punched Detention Deputy Hodge in the face, breaking his noise,” Eleazer reported.
Additional detention deputies quickly responded to the cell to help Hodge subdue Muniz.
Hodge got immediate medical attention and was taken to the hospital to be treated for his broken nose.
The assault on a corrections officer was condemned by Polk County’s sheriff, Grady Judd, who noted the new charges being filed against Muniz.
“We continue to send a clear message to anyone who resides in our jail that we absolutely will not tolerate this type of behavior,” Judd said. “Our detention deputies do a thankless job handling the care, custody, and control of inmates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any inmate who assaults a deputy or any other jail staff will be charged with a felony — period.”
The sheriff’s office also pointed out that Muniz has faced similar charges while being incarcerated, and that he’s had prior incidents of violence directed at jail staff.
“This is not inmate Muniz’s first charge for battery after being booked into the jail,” Eleazer noted. “In June 2012, Muniz spit in the face of and then attacked Dr. Timothy McCrae, a licensed psychiatrist who was working in the South County Jail.”
According to the report on that incident, “When Dr. McCrae, during his medical evaluation of Muniz, told Muniz he did not see a medical need for Muniz to be prescribed a certain mediation, Muniz spit in the doctor’s face, then punched him repeatedly on both sides of his face,” Eleazer noted.
Muniz was charged with battery on an officer for that assault.
Muniz had been transferred to the Polk County Jail on May 2 from Hillsborough County, where he was arrested on a Lakeland Police Department warrant for attempted murder.
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