Police: Convicted killer assaults CO at Pa. prison

The inmate has been charged with punching a CO several times inside a Pennsylvania prison last month


David Hurst
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

SOMERSET, Pa. — A convicted murderer has been charged with attacking a corrections officer inside an SCI-Somerset housing unit last month.

Philadelphia native Johnny Lee Alexander is accused of punching the officer in the face several times Feb. 10 after he tried repeatedly to get the inmate to remove food from the unit’s recreational day room.

State Correctional Institution – Somerset (Photo / Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)
State Correctional Institution – Somerset (Photo / Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)

The incident occurred on Alexander’s 57th birthday, prison records and court documents show.

According to state police, the corrections officer tried “several times” to encourage Alexander to remove personal food from the room – per prison policy – but he refused.

When the officer walked away to report the issue, Alexander approached and punched him several times, bruising the left half of his face, cutting open his upper and lower lips and breaking multiple teeth, Trooper Patrick Hauser wrote in a criminal complaint.

Alexander now faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, assault by a life prisoner and harassment, a criminal complaint shows.

He has been relocated to SCI-LaBelle, a maximum security prison in Fayette County, while awaiting a preliminary arraignment before District Judge Sandra Stevanus on March 19.

History of violence

Alexander has been in the state prison system since Jan. 15, 1986, according to Amy Warden, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

Court records show he was arrested in Philadelphia on a list of charges and was later sentenced to serve the rest of his life behind bars for a 1984 homicide.

Eastern District U.S. District Court appeals documents show Alexander was one of three men charged with robbing and shooting a known drug dealer and his wife inside a Philadelphia apartment while they were forced to lie on the floor.

Both victims were shot in the head, but the dealer’s wife survived the shooting.

Alexander’s conviction followed years of arrests and convictions for robbery and assault-related counts in Philadelphia, court records show.

Multiple attacks

Over the past 15 months, three inmates serving life sentences at the Somerset prison have been charged with attacking SCI-Somerset staff or fellow inmates. One claimed a veteran corrections officer’s life and another, separate incident killed a prison inmate.

  • William Amos Cramer, 27, a self-described white supremacist, was charged with attempted homicide, assault by a prisoner, assault by a life prisoner, aggravated assault and simple assault for attacking an officer with a razor while he was at Somerset Hospital for a scheduled treatment Dec. 3, 2017. At the time, Cramer was serving a life sentence for hanging a former cellmate in 2012 while they were serving time at Cambria County Prison.
  • Paul Kendrick, 23, is awaiting trial in the fatal beating of Sgt. Mark Baserman on Feb. 15, 2017, accused of kicking and stomping the man with heavy work boots during an incident inside a day room. Kendrick, who is awaiting trial in Somerset County, is serving a life sentence for a Pittsburgh murder.
  • Dale Wakefield, 26, is awaiting trial for the Jan. 9 torture and murder of his cellmate who was allegedly found hidden underneath a bunk bed, investigators said. Wakefield is already serving a life sentence for stabbing a homeless veteran to death at a Bucks County bus shelter in 2013.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the cases against Wakefield and Kendrick.

Another assault on a corrections officer reportedly happened Sunday at the prison but investigators had not yet released details on the matter as of Tuesday.

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©2019 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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