NANTICOKE — As he prepares to bury his son, the father of a federal prison guard slain by an inmate said he trusts federal officials will thoroughly investigate the incident to determine if additional measures can be taken to ensure the safety of his former co-workers.
Donald Williams said his son, Eric, knew there were inherent dangers associated with his job at the Federal Correctional Institution at Canaan, but Eric never expressed concern for his safety in the 1 1/2 years he worked there.
“He had a clear understanding of the individuals incarcerated there and their potential to be dangerous, but he never expressed any fear,” Donald Williams said.
Eric Williams 34, was beaten and stabbed to death by an inmate as Williams prepared to take a head count in a housing unit Monday night, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Officials with the union that represents federal prison guards on Tuesday questioned whether the attack against Williams, who was working alone, might have been prevented if a second guard had been stationed with him. The union has been fighting for years to increase staffing.
Donald Williams said his son never mentioned if he had concerns about working alone. The family has not been provided any details about how the attack unfolded, so he cannot say yet whether he believes it could have been prevented.
“I’m not going to sit here and point fingers. There are things that happen,” he said. “Could it have been a fluke or error … or is there a system problem?”
Williams said several officials from the U.S. Department of Justice visited his home Tuesday night and assured him they will thoroughly investigate those questions.
“I said to them, ‘I want you to take a look at, is this preventable,’ ” he said. “My son can’t come back, but there are other men and women in harm’s way. We want to make sure everything is safe for them.”
Federal guards are equipped with an alarm system on their bodies that they can trigger if they are in danger. Williams said initial reports indicate his son did not trigger the alarm, but it’s not clear why.
“From what I understand, due to the injuries he received, he wasn’t able to push the button,” Williams said. “I think there was a period of time he laid there, undiscovered.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not released the identity of the alleged assailant, who has not yet been charged. The case remains under investigation by the FBI.
Once the investigation is complete, federal prosecutors will most likely present the case to a federal grand jury, which would decide if there is sufficient evidence to issue an indictment.
It’s not known yet if prosecutors will seek the death penalty. The case appears to qualify for the sentence under federal law on several grounds, including that the crime was committed on federal property.
Williams said he believes authorities should seek death for his son’s killer.
“This man murdered my son … . Let them do justice as should be, and that is death penalty,” he said.
Williams said his family has been overwhelmed by the amount of support they’ve received from the community.
“It’s been unbelievable. It’s restored my faith in human nature,” he said. “I’m not handling this really well emotionally. If not for all these people stopping by, it would be an impossible task.”
He also credited officials with the prison’s union and the Department of Justice for how they’ve handled the matter.
Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday ordered flags at the state Capitol and all state buildings to be flown at half staff. Williams said he has been told a number of high ranking federal officials plan to attend the viewing and/or funeral, which are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“They’re certainly giving all the due honor and respect to my son,” Williams said. “I don’t have anything but praise for the way they’re handling this and trying to help my family.”