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Blair County Court Safety

It’s been almost two months since the death of Blair County Corrections Officer Rhonda Russell. Officials say that she was alone with an inmate before she was over before he overpowered her.

She was shot and killed when another officer tried to shoot the inmate, according to court documents. Nicole Fushino tells us some county officials are feeling frustrated with the progress of changes to security at court facilities.

The Blair County official I spoke with today, said that ever since Russell died and even before then, they’ve been having these conversations about safety and security.

But now they’re saying that they need to do something sooner rather than later.

Almost 60 days have come and gone since the tragic death of Blair County Corrections Officer Rhonda Russell, who was killed in the line of duty while supervising inmates awaiting their court proceedings.

The upcoming anniversary of her death is the flame, reigniting the conversation on security and safety.

Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks says there is no security at any of the magisterial district judges buildings in Blair County and that it’s especially needed at the big and busy Central Court building,
where Russell had her very last moments.

“It’s certainly been a concern that I’ve raised over the years in light of the recent events. I’ve been talking with the commissioners and the controller about things we could do to make all of the locations more secure.”

Investigators say Russell was left alone with several inmates on November 17th, including Christopher Aiken.

Troopers say Russell un-cuffed one of his hands so that he could go to the bathroom. But when he returned, he assaulted her, taking her gun and holding her hostage.

The affidavit says in Altoona, police officer fired a shot at Aiken, which ultimately struck Russell.

And now the fight continues to get more security measures into county buildings to prevent situations like these from ever happening again.

“I think the way to do that is to have a security presence at those facilities, especially Central Court and a screening potential.”

This is one example of where those accused of homicide, domestic violence and other crimes sit with really no barrier between them and the outside world.

“So you need to make sure you have the correct number of personnel within the building at all times to properly secure watch and guard those inmates.”

We reached out to Blair County officials to see what they’re doing to address these safety concerns.

“I really can’t discuss any of our current or future plans for the same security reasons that that I am concerned we can’t share that publicly.
So let us just be assured that that we’re trying to do everything that we can to keep everybody safe.”

“Well, continue asking and advocating for the change that I think we need to be safe. And I’m hopeful that we accomplished that sooner rather than later.”

And we also reached out to the Blair County commissioners, but we have not heard back yet.

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