Injured local jailer on the mendMan’s jaw still wired shut following attack.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
James Dietz never saw the punch coming.
“He was in front of me and it was a very fast maneuver,” he said. “There was no reaction time.” Dietz, a part-time correctional officer at the Davison County Jail in Mitchell, said he was making rounds and doing his job “to the letter” when the inmate attacked him.
“The first hit knocked me out,” he said, “so there wasn’t much I could do.” The savage blow drove Dietz backward; his head struck a ledge near the pod’s entry door and his body fell heavily into the corridor outside the pod.
His assailant pressed the attack, following up with kicks to the downed jailer’s body, until another corrections officer warned off the inmate with a Taser.
The attack occurred Jan. 1. In the days afterward, while he was hospitalized, Dietz’s face was badly swollen. He looked remarkably better Friday.
“I don’t have as much strength or energy as before, but I’m improving and I don’t need the heavy pain meds anymore,” he said.
Dietz’s jaw has been wired shut after being broken in the attack. He has been on a liquid diet.
The ordeal has knocked 10 pounds off his 6-foot, 220-pound frame, Deitz said, “which is about where I want to be.” He wouldn’t recommend it as a diet plan, though.
The wires will be removed later this week, but he must remain on a soft diet for at least two more weeks to reduce the possibility of re-injuring his jaw. It will be February before he is cleared to return to work, he said.
The inmate’s name is still being withheld pending the filing of charges, State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins said Friday.
Since the attack and subsequent surgery to repair a broken jaw, right cheekbone, orbital bone and split lower lip, recovery has been Dietz’s main priority.
He has been able to attend his nursing classes at Dakota Wesleyan University, but it will be weeks before he is cleared for work. Originally from Sioux Falls, Dietz attended the University of South Dakota for two years before transferring to DWU. He plans to graduate from DWU in 2014 with a degree in nursing.
He is a certified emergency medical technician, formerly worked at the Clay County Jail and still works a few times each month for Canton’s ambulance program. He credits his EMT credentials with helping him to land his job at the jail.
He hopes to work for the ambulance service next summer to help pay his college expenses.
“I’ve had nothing but support from the county on everything that’s come up,” he said. He declined comment on whether different procedures or policies at the jail might have prevented his injuries. In the meantime, he said, “Worker’s comp helps to pay some bills, but I’m watching what I spend.” He dreams of solid food. “I’d give anything for a pizza,” he joked. “But even more than food, it would be really nice to brush my teeth. I can brush the outside OK, but the inside is really nasty.”