Inmates recount how they saved deputy from attack
TAMPA - The four men entered the room at Orient Road Jail to news cameras rolling and reporters firing questions. Jerry Dieguez Jr., Terrell Carswell, David Schofield and Hoang Vu have received a flurry of attention since Wednesday when word got out how the four inmates came to the rescue of Deputy Kenneth Moon, who was being strangled by another inmate. The event was caught on tape and the dramatic video has made the men into worldwide celebrities. The sheriff's office already has fielded calls from "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Inside Edition" and TV stations from as far away as Norway. All wanted interviews with the men. In addition to the media, the sheriff's office has received about a dozen calls nationally from people wanting to donate money into the men's jail accounts. One caller from New Jersey wanted to donate a flat screen television for the men's cell unit.So far, the men from Pod 7-Delta seem to take it in stride. At a news conference Thursday afternoon, they said the incident gave them a chance to show their true natures. "It means a lot to me," said Schofield, 34. "That shows you how much respect and what kind of heart I got. You got to be respectful to your elders and yourself.'' "At least I did something right," said Carswell, 38. "We do have a heart." The group also shed some more light on exactly what happened Monday. At around 12:45 p.m. that day, the 62 men in the cell unit were picking up their lunch of sandwiches and cookies. Inmate Douglas Burden didn't come down until everyone was served. He approached Dieguez, 48, who was handing out the sandwiches to the inmates. Dieguez said he asked Burden if he wanted a sandwich, but Burden looked at him with no interest. Deputy Moon was sitting behind the control unit. He told Burden didn't want to eat he should go back to bed. Seconds later, Burden sneaked around the control unit and attacked Moon, 64. The 5-foot-4, 160 pound Burden got his arms around Moon's throat and put him in a chokehold. Seconds later, Dieguez rounded the desk and, on the run, punches Burden in the face. "Out of instinct I attacked him and hit him as hard as I could," Dieguez said. Burden fell to the ground and Dieguez, Carswell and Vu charged him and held him down. Schofield took the deputy's radio and called for help at the control center. The four inmates know Moon well. All said they have respect for him and how he treats them. He has strict rules but he is fair, the inmates said. "Moon, he goes out of his way," Carswell said. "Even though he's an officer, he acts like a father figure and like a doctor." Moon isn't available for interviews, the sheriff's office said. He has a severe sore throat and his voice is raspy. He is suffering from soreness and pain around his neck, the sheriff's office said. Carswell said this is the second time they have had to pull Burden off someone in the cell unit. About two months ago, he attacked an inmate, he said. Carswell called Bundren's actions wrong but said "his mind kind of went out of him." The sheriff's office has written a letter of commendation for the inmates. Attorneys for the men hope that their action is looked upon favorably during the judicial process and might lead to early release. Dieguez is in jail on an armed home invasion charge. Carswell is charged with robbery, marijuana possession, cocaine trafficking, failure to register as a sex offender and obstructing an officer. Schofield is in jail on aggravated assault and battery charges. Vu is charged with attempted murder. Burden, 24, has been in jail since March 14 on driving under the influence and drug trafficking charges. A charge of battery on a law enforcement officer has been added after Monday's attack. Col. James Previtera, who heads the county's jail system, said he hopes people realize the work that detention deputies do and the risks they take. "I hope the public becomes more aware of how dangerous their job is," Previtera said. "And the public becomes more thankful that there are men and women that do this job." He also appreciates the action of the men who defended his deputy. "It says that deep down there is good in every one no matter what they've done in their past or what mistakes they made," Previtera said
Reporter José Patiño Girona can be reached at (813) 259-7659.