Gene Lee was a detention officer in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department in Arizona for six years before he was killed in the line of duty.
Lee passed away on October 30, 2019, one day after officials say he was attacked by an inmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail. Lee was 64 years old. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
The inmate accused of killing Lee was identified as Daniel Davitt. Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone explained that Davitt has been in custody for more than two years on sex charges involving children.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Deputies Say the Inmate Slammed Lee’s Head Into the Concrete During an Unprovoked Attack
Gene Lee was attacked by inmate Daniel Davitt on Tuesday, October 29, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone explained during a news conference.
Sheriff Penzone said that there was no interaction between Lee and Davitt before the attack. The inmate is accused of grabbing Lee by his throat and sweeping his legs out from under him, seemingly without any provocation or warning.
Sheriff Penzone said that Lee was thrown to the ground. His head was slammed into the concrete floor, knocking Lee unconscious.
Lee was rushed to Banner University Medical Center. Dr. Paul Dabrowski explained that Lee suffered a traumatic brain injury. Doctors performed a procedure to “remove the blood and pressure from around the brain.”
But Lee never woke up. He passed away the following day. The news conference embedded above took place a few hours before Lee was declared dead.
2. Gene Lee Served as a Volunteer in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Before Becoming an Officer
Gene Lee was a Detention Officer for six years, but he was involved with the department long before he was sworn in as an officer. Sheriff Penzone noted that Lee had served as a volunteer with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office while he was still working in his previous career.
Lee was a “Posse” member. According to department’s website, the “volunteer Posse consists of non-compensated positions made up of people from all walks of life who want to assist law enforcement as a way to give back to their community. They contribute their varied skills and interests to one goal; support the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Posse branches train for many support functions to include: Search and Rescue, Crime Scene Security, Patrol Support, Administrative Assistance, Civic Functions, Disaster Relief, and Emergency Details.”
3. Gene Lee & Other Detention Officers Face Risks Similar to Those of Officers On the Street, Sheriff Penzone Explained
Sheriff Penzone did not mince words when describing the threats that detention officers like Gene Lee face every day on the job. Hours before Lee passed away, the sheriff talked about how the community is aware of the risks that officers on the street face, but stressed that the officers in the jails are putting just as much at risk.
Sheriff Penzone said that the detention officers “are expected to manage a population of people who have made bad decisions and, quite frankly and directly, bad people who are violent and wish to do harm with anyone whose paths they cross.”
He added that officers are trained to use the least amount of force possible even when facing a violent situation and that detention officers should receive more thanks for the work that they do.
4. Flags Were Flown at Half-Mast in Arizona On October 31 to Honor Officer Gene Lee
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey ordered all state buildings to fly the flags at half-mast on October 31 to honor Gene Lee. The governor said in a statement:
“As a six-year veteran of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Lee put his life on the line to ensure the safety of his fellow citizens and officers. Our hearts go out to the entire Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and our prayers are with Officer Lee’s family and loved ones.”
5. Sheriff Penzone Described Daniel Davitt as a ‘Criminal Predator’ With ‘No Respect For Human Life’
Daniel Davitt was first arrested on April 20, 2017. According to inmate records on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office website, Davitt had the following charges pending against him:
- Sexual conduct with a minor
- Molestation of a child
- Sexual abuse
Davitt was immediately transferred out of Maricopa County following the attack on Gene Lee. Inmate records confirm he was moved to the Pinal County jail system on October 30.
Maricopa Sheriff Penzone explained during a news conference that his office was committed to assisting prosecutors in their case against Davitt “to ensure that we not only convict him but that he sees the longest sentence practical.” The sheriff described Davitt as a “criminal predator with no respect for authority, for human life or for the community.”