Man Charged After Melee at Flathead County Jail

Devon Joel Morris and four detention officers were taken to hospital after he forced his way out of his cell Thursday morning; all five have been treated and released

By Andy Viano
A guard checks rooms at the Flathead County Detention Center. Beacon file photo

A 25-year-old man used his mattress as a shield as he barged out of his cell and ignited a violent brawl with a handful of officers at the Flathead County Detention Center Thursday morning.

Devon Joel Morris was charged with four counts of felony assault on a peace officer in Flathead County District Court on Friday. He is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Monday.

Morris was arrested early Thursday morning after causing a disturbance at a Kalispell grocery store and booked without incident into the county jail, according to Sheriff Brian Heino. But several hours later, a little before 10 a.m., officers observed Morris destroying his mattress and confronted him. When they opened the door to his single-unit cell, Morris used the mattress to ram his way out of the room and run to the nearby booking area.

There, Morris allegedly attacked several officers and tasers were deployed multiple times before he was restrained. According to charging documents, Morris punched two officers in the face, grabbed another’s face in a manner described as trying to “rip (the officer)’s face off,” and violently grabbed a fourth person in the groin. Four detention officers were transported to the hospital for treatment shortly after the incident and two others also suffered injuries in the melee, Heino said. All were treated and released from the hospital but two officers remain off work as a result of their injuries.

Violent incidents with inmates are rare at the Flathead County Detention Center, Heino said, but Morris’ attack highlights the dangers detention officers face in a mostly unseen law enforcement capacity.

“They don’t get noticed but the risk factors of the job are significant,” Heino said. “They’ve got a hard job, especially the responsibility for the custody and safety of 100-plus people at one time.”

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