As Roof left his cell, inmate Dwayne Stafford “ran down the stairs and was able to get to Roof, who was at or near the shower area,” the sheriff said.
Stafford, who is black, punched Roof “a number of times and assaulted him quickly,” Cannon said.
Roof suffered “minor bruising to his face and back area,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
Both Stafford and the 22-year-old Roof were examined by medical personnel after the incident, which was broken up by a detention deputy.
Through his attorney, Roof has informed authorities that he doesn’t want to pursue criminal charges against Stafford, according to the news release.
“Given the circumstances surrounding this incident, an internal investigation and review will be conducted by the Sheriff’s Office, Office of Professional Standards,” the release states.
Officials are investigating how Stafford managed to get through a steel cell door with a narrow vertical window and down the stairs to reach Roof.The two detention officers assigned to the unit are being interviewed and officials are also looking into the possibility the electronic door mechanism malfunctioned.The area of the jail is for federal and high-security prisoners. It has two tiers of cells and the shower Roof was using was in the center on the ground floor. Cell doors can only be opened by officers sitting at a control console.
Cannon told reporters that at the time of the attack, one of the detention officers had taken a break, and the other had been called to another cell to provide toilet paper.
“It seems to me, pretty obvious at this point, that at the very least we have complacency, which is one of the — for police officers and detention officers — one of the biggest challenges that I think that we face and is a factor in events that occur out there,” Cannon said. “We do things day in, day out, and they become routine and as a result of that, it’s sometimes easy to become complacent.”
ABC News reported that Cannon didn’t indicate what prompted the encounter. The AP also reported that Cannon “could not say if race was a motive for the attack.”
“I can’t speculate,” he said, according to the wire service. “There is nothing that I am aware of beyond the obvious speculation that we would all have, given the nature of the situation. But nothing specific.”
Sheriff Al Cannon says Dylann Roof was probably in defense posture when he was attacked and there was not a back-and-forth exchange of blows— schuyler kropf (@skropf47) August 4, 2016
Stafford is jailed on charges of providing false information to police, strong-armed robbery and first-degree assault and battery, according to online jail records. The Charleston Post and Courier reports that the cases are pending.
Roof, who is white, is charged in the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME, which unfolded during a Bible study session at the historic church. Nine people were killed in the attack, which federal prosecutors have said was racially motivated.
This post has been updated.