MCSO detention officer killed in brutal attack remembered by his peers as a respectful role model

An MCSO detention officer killed in a brutal attack earlier in the week is being remembered by his peers as a respectful role model who treated his co-workers and inmates with kindness.

Lee's death marks the first time MCSO has lost a detention officer.

Gene Lee (Courtesy: MCSO)

The incident, according to earlier statements by MCSO, happened as 64-year-old Gene Lee was beginning his shift, with the suspect, identified as 59-year-old Daniel Davitt, catching Lee off guard.

Davitt is accused of grabbing Lee by his throat, and allegedly swept his legs out from under him so aggressively, that when Lee was knocked off-balance and thrown to the floor, the first part of the body to strike the floor was his head.

Daniel Davitt (Courtesy: Pinal County Sheriff's Office)

Davitt is described by authorities as a man who has been in custody with the MCSO for the last two years, accused of sexual abuse and indecent exposure.

"Anyone of us could be that officer," said Benjamin Fisk, President of the Maricopa County Law Enforcement Association. "It hurts."

Fisk said there's a brotherhood between detention officers who just lost one of their own.

"As an agency, we're grieving," said Fisk. "We get officers attacked all the time, but this is the first in-custody death in living memory of most DOs."

The attack happened at the Lower Buckeye Jail, where Fisk said officers can be vastly outnumbered.

"You can be anywhere between one to 64 to one to 120 in one pod," said Fisk.

"I've been assaulted," said Carlos Garcia, Executive Director of the Arizona Correction Peace Officers Association. "Doors have come open, inmates have gotten in fist fights with me, literally."

Garcia has worked 20 years for the Department of Corrections, and says what happened to Lee can happen to anyone, regardless of training.

"In the end, my friend, it doesn't matter," said Garcia. "Violence can erupt so suddenly that there's nothing you can do."

On Thursday, officials with MCSO confirmed that Davitt had filed a complaint against Lee last year, saying he felt uncomfortable with the way Lee looked at him during rounds.

Meanwhile, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone calls Lee a "dedicated officer" who answered his calling, becoming a detention officer at an age most people are getting to retire from working altogether.

Sheriff Penzone also said Lee was an engineer, then became a volunteer with the Sheriff's Posse before becoming a detention officer six years ago.

Lee leaves behind a wife, two children, and two grandchildren. Ceremonial arrangements for Lee have yet to be announced.