An apparently suicidal inmate, waving a Bible in one hand and a homemade knife in the other, injured three deputies in a scuffle at Orleans Parish Prison on Friday night.
Details of the fight were confirmed by Philip Stelly, a spokesman for Sheriff Marlin Gusman.
Stelly said the incident occurred about 8 p.m. in the Conchetta building.
He said deputies were alerted to 23-year-old Reginald Pye, who was standing on a table with an open Bible in his hands.
He said Deputy Edwin Masters ordered Pye to get off the table, but he refused and began to hop from table to table. Masters requested backup, at which point Sgt. Lester Burns arrived.
The two guards “took down the inmate before he could hurt himself,” Stelly said. While they were doing so, Pye pulled out a homemade knife, or shank, from underneath the Bible and struck two of the deputies with the weapon, Stelly said.
A third guard, Deputy Charles Scott, also was injured while subduing Pye, according to Stelly.
Stelly said two of the guards were transported to Tulane Medical Center and one to Interim LSU Hospital, where they were treated for bites and knife wounds to the hands and arms. All three were released from the hospital by Saturday afternoon, according to Stelly.
Pye also was taken to a hospital, where he was being held for a mental evaluation.
Pye was in jail for a May 30 arrest. According to reporting at the time by nola.com, police said Pye attacked a woman and bit her 5-month-old daughter inside his Central City apartment. The woman said she had offered to spend the night at Pye’s house because he was upset over a spat with his boyfriend.
She told police she awoke during the middle of night to hear Pye asking God to help him.
He then apparently snapped, breaking items, attacking the woman and eventually biting her, according to nola.com. He also bit the woman’s infant on the cheek, neck and shoulder.
Pye was charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated second-degree battery and second-degree cruelty to juveniles in the incident.
According to court records, he was ordered to have a mental examination after his arrest.
Stelly said that as a result of the incident at the jail, Pye was booked on three additional counts of attempted murder, one count of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated battery on a correctional officer.
Pye was not housed in a mental health unit at the time of the incident.
Classifying and treating inmates with mental illness has long been a problem at the prison, which is under a federal consent degree to correct unconstitutional conditions.
Earlier this month, Gusman proposed temporarily relocating inmates with acute mental health issues to a special-needs unit at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, while Gusman pursues plans to build a detention facility that could accommodate inmates in need of acute mental health care.