More on the death of Officer Rhonda Russell, we are still trying to learn more about her, her life as well as her death. Douglas Braff reached out to a variety of people and authorities about Russell. So Douglas, what did they say?
Yes, we reached out to a whole list of public figures and organizations to find out more about Rhonda Russell as a person and everything surrounding her death. As there’s an ongoing investigation, some people could only stick by the statements they’ve already released. But of those people who would have known Russell personally, they weren’t willing to talk about her.
Russell was killed Wednesday afternoon after inmate Christopher Aikens took her weapon and assaulted her inside of a holding area at the Blair County Central Court Building. Court documents we obtained say Russell was watching over several inmates by herself when the assault happened.
Aiikens then pushed Russell into the line of fire when in Altoona, police officer fired a weapon at him, instead killing her. Those same documents offered little explanation as to why Russell was watching inmates by herself or how Aikens was apprehended by police.
I spoke with the Pennsylvania State Police trooper in charge of the case. As well as the Commander Sergeant Bradford Todd, neither of whom could make further comment about the case or the incidents in question.
I also visited the sheriff’s office and was told Sheriff James Ott was not available due to meetings. I spoke with the Blair County Prison warden Abbie Tate, who said no one was willing to speak at this time, although she did provide comment yesterday to the Altoona Mirror about Russell as a person.
I reached out to the Blair County commissioners, as well as both Blair and Center County Coroner’s officers, asking about why the autopsy was conducted at Mt. Whitney and if they knew anything about funeral arrangements.
I did receive a statement from Congressman John Joyce, who represents Altoona, that said Quote
“Officer Rhonda Russell served our community with honor and distinction and her death is a heartbreaking tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the Blair County corrections officers, her family and her loved ones during this difficult time.”
The Blair County Prison Board said in a statement a few hours ago that a service will be held for Russell on Monday, November 29th at the County Convention Center.
The ceremony is open to the public.