An inmate in the Calhoun County Jail was hospitalized Tuesday after being stabbed by a fellow inmate, Sheriff Matthew Wade said Wednesday.
Wade said Austin Kane Abernathy, 23, will likely face a charge of either first-degree assault or attempted murder in the incident.
Abernathy and the stabbing victim were among the inmates in a holding cell for inmates who were awaiting a move to another part of the jail at the time of the stabbing, Wade said.
The victim, a 20-year-old who’d been in the jail since 2017 on a first-degree sodomy charge, reported to jail staff around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday that he had enemies in the wing of the jail where he was being held.
When inmates are processed into the jail, Wade said, they’re asked if they have any enemies already in the jail. Corrections officers work to keep inmates separated from the enemies on their list. Inmates can update their list of enemies on kiosks inside the jail, Wade said.
When the inmate reported an enemy in the wing Tuesday, Wade said, officers pulled him out of the wing where he was staying. They searched the inmate’s bunk and found a shank—an improvised knife. Wade said corrections officers decided to “reclassify” the inmate, moving him to a new section of the jail, and put him in a holding cell with other inmates while awaiting the move.
“He was in that cell for 32 minutes before the stabbing happened,” Wade said.
Other inmates told guards that Abernathy approached the victim from behind and stabbed him with a shank. Wade said he wasn’t sure how many times the victim was stabbed, though there was one serious stab wound in his chest and another in his leg.
“He was losing a lot of blood,” Wade said.
The inmate was sent to a hospital, Wade said, though the sheriff declined to release the name of the hospital due to security concerns.
The sheriff said he’s unaware of any prior connections between Abernathy and the stabbing victim. He said Abernathy has tattoos that indicate he’s a member of the Folk Nation gang.
Abernathy was first admitted to the jail on Jan. 24, where he’s listed as being held on behalf of the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office. Wade said Wednesday he didn’t know what charge Abernathy faces in Etowah County. Court records show that Abernathy is awaiting trial in a Cleburne County assault and has pleaded guilty to robbery charges in Etowah County in recent years.
In a text to the Star Wednesday afternoon, Wade said that despite overcrowding at the jail, Calhoun County has agreements with other counties that allow transfer of inmates to nearby counties' jails. He said counties sometimes need to move an inmate if the inmate is in danger or needs to be kept away from a co-defendant.
Wade said he didn’t know how the shank used in the stabbing was made, though it was made of metal.
“It could be part of a light fixture or a bed frame,” he said.
The stabbing victim is expected to be released from the hospital as early as Friday, Wade said. Asked what measures would be taken to keep the victim safe when he returns to jail, Wade said that hadn’t yet been determined.
“How can you protect somebody in a jail? By putting them in a cell by themselves,” he said.
He said that wasn’t likely in Calhoun County’s jail, which has a history of overcrowding.