Pa. flags at half-staff for slain fed prison guard

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HARRISBURG (AP) – A slain federal prison guard was honored Friday by an order from Pennsylvania’s governor to fly flags at half-staff at certain state buildings.


Gov. Tom Corbett said the measure to honor Eric Williams would remain in effect until sundown today, the day of Williams’ funeral. It applies to buildings in the Capitol complex in Harrisburg, as well as state facilities in Luzerne County, where Williams lived.


Williams, 34, was killed Monday night while on duty at the Canaan State Prison in Wayne County. Officials said an unnamed inmate attacked Williams, who suffered head and neck injuries. No one has been charged, and the nature of the weapon was not immediately disclosed.


Also Friday, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said the Bureau of Prisons would allow guards at Canaan and another federal lockup in the state, Allenwood, to carry pepper spray. The program will be expanded to allow guards to carry it at all of the country’s high security federal prisons.


Casey sponsored a bill to authorize a pilot program to study the effectiveness of having guards carry pepper spray, and it began at the Lewisburg Federal Prison in June. A 2011 federal study said assault rates were lower at some state prisons that permitted correctional officers to have the spray.


In Williams’ case, the first fatal attack on a federal corrections officer in nearly five years, the alleged assailant was restrained by other prison employees.


Williams’ sister described the Nanticoke native as an outdoorsman who enjoyed soccer and bowling. He was single, began working for the Bureau of Prisons in 2011 and had recently renovated a house.


The Saturday funeral was to follow a public viewing Friday afternoon at Greater Nanticoke Area High School, where he was graduated in 1996.


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