AFSCME is mourning the loss of our brother Pedro Rodríguez-Mateo, a corrections officer in Puerto Rico who was killed in the line of duty. He was a member of Alianza Correccional Unida (ACU), Servidores Públicos Unidos, AFSCME Council 95.
On July 31, Rodríguez-Mateo was supervising the visiting room at Las Cucharas, a maximum-security prison in Ponce, Puerto Rico, when he noticed a visitor pass an item to an inmate, according to an account posted online at Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc., (ODMP) a nonprofit group that honors law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
During a subsequent search, the inmate, who is serving a 71-year sentence for a triple murder, attacked Rodríguez-Mateo, took away his baton, and struck him several times, fracturing his skull, according to the ODMP account. Rodríguez-Mateo was transported to a hospital, where he died from his injuries the following day.
ACU President Juan González blamed the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation for the tragedy. In a news dispatch on its website, ACU said the incident could have been prevented were it not for the agency’s change of policy that lessened restrictions on maximum-security inmates.
González said ACU is enraged by Rodríguez-Mateo’s death.
“Today, one of our colleagues is fighting for his life, simply because Corrections allowed maximum-security inmates to be without restrictions during visitation,” González was quoted as saying on the day of the attack. “We warned the secretary that this was a serious mistake that put officers’ lives in danger.”
González added that short staffing, a problem in all the island’s prisons, also contributed to the incident.
AFSCME expresses our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Rodríguez-Mateo. We have reached out to his wife, Gloris Cruz, to offer support through our union’s Fallen Heroes Fund.
Rodríguez-Mateo, 44, was posthumously promoted to sergeant. He is survived by his wife and child.
The inmate has been charged with first-degree murder of a correctional officer.