An inmate at the Lea County Detention Center was found guilty of kidnapping and beating a prison officer to escape from jail.
On Friday, Gabriel Rodriguez, 29, of Hobbs, was convicted of kidnapping, a first-degree felony; assault with intent to commit a violent crime on a peace officer, a second-degree felony; and attempt to escape from jail and conspiracy to attempt an escape from jail, both fourth-degree felonies.
According to the criminal complaint filed in court, the prison officer was beaten, choked until unconscious, and handcuffed while two inmates asked him for the keys to escape from the Lea County Detention Center. On March 6, 2019, around 5:45 a.m. Hobbs and Rodriguez were being moved to another housing unit in the jail. The assault was caught on the detention center’s surveillance cameras.
Justin Hobbs, 24, of Jal was the second inmate connected to the assault. According to the report, Hobbs told police Rodriguez is his cousin and he was protecting him.
According to the report, the victim was at the unit to transfer the inmates and tried to handcuff Rodriguez and Hobbs when the inmates attacked.
Rodriguez grabbed the victim around the neck while Hobbs grabbed him by his legs and “slam(ed)” the victim to the ground, the video showed. Hobbs began to punch the officer in the head while Rodriguez took the radio off the victim. The victim then tried to kick Hobbs off him and tried holding on to his radio.
“The victim advised ‘somewhere in all that’ he was able to put out the ‘10-33’ distress call on his radio for his unit,” the report states. The victim later told a detective with the Lovington Police Department Rodriguez said, “knock this (expletive) out, and he hit me I don’t know how many times.”
Hobbs then punched the officer two more times in the head before putting the victim in a strangulation hold. Rodriguez took two socks and placed them around the victim’s neck to strangle him for around 20 seconds which caused the victim to fall on the floor.
The victim told the officer “I went out, part way out”, meaning he was losing consciousness.
The video showed after the victim fell to the floor Hobbs hit him six more times in the face, while Rodriguez was by the victim’s head, the socks still around the victim’s neck.
Hobbs and Rodriguez then are seen in the control room trying to manipulate the control board. The victim was seen regaining consciousness in less than a minute. The victim tried standing when Rodriguez grabbed him, the sock still in his hand.
“‘He kept asking where the key was at, and I asked him what key, and he said the big key, and said I don’t have keys. I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” the correctional officer said.
The video shows Rodriguez began to strangle the victim with the sock before throwing him to the floor, and kicking the victim in the chest hard enough to knock him into a counter.
Rodriguez is then shown in the video tying a sheet to the control room door to secure it before he attempted to use the control panel again. Hobbs also is seen at the control panel before he hit the victim again and strangled him with his arm.
The victim is thrown to the ground by Hobbs and then is handcuffed on the floor.
Both Hobbs and Rodriguez attempt to use the control board when other officers arrived. The jail officers were unable to open the door because it was tied with the sheet.
Rodriguez picked up the victim and placed his arm around the victim’s neck. The report states the victim said he heard one of the inmates say, “I got a pen to his neck, I’ll kill him.”
When more prison officers arrived at the control room to help, they were able to open the control room door. The video shows Rodriguez began to throw chairs at the officers as they entered.
Hobbs also grabs something from the counter and threw it at an officer (the second victim) and hit him in the face. The second victim told officers he could see the first victim who was purple and red, disoriented, bleeding from his face and mouth with a knot from being his was near his eye.
As jail officers tried to detain Rodriguez he tried to tackle one of the officers, which caused them to fall out of the control room. The video shows he then punched the officer twice before other jail officers dragged him out of the room and detained him. Hobbs also resisted and was eventually detained.
The report states the altercation all happened in just less than seven minutes. The day after the assault Hobbs was interviewed and admitted to the attack.
“(Hobbs) advised that the only reason he fought the victim was to ‘protect’ his cousin, however the victim is not seen physically attacking,” the report states.
He later told officers after the assault Rodriguez told him, “man I don’t know what the (expletive) we were doing, but we (expletive) up, that’s going to be one hell of a memory huh?”
Hobbs claimed he was sorry for the attack and wrote a letter of apology for the family of the victim, the report states. However, on the day of the attack, Hobbs called his girlfriend and said he did not care about the victim, the report states.
On the phone call, he told his girlfriend that both of the inmates were high and “wigging” during the assault.
According to court records, Hobbs took a plea deal for the charges in July. Judge William Shoobridge signed off for Hobbs to serve 10 years in prison followed by two years parole.
He plead guilty to assault with intent to commit a violent felony on a peace officer, conspiracy to commit assault with intent, attempt to escape jail, and conspiracy to escape from jail, while the kidnapping charges were dismissed as part of the agreement.
On Friday Rodriguez was found guilty of all counts except conspiracy to kidnapping, which was acquitted by the jury.
Judge Mark Sanchez proceeded over Rodriguez’s case and a sentencing hearing will take place on Nov. 11 at 9 a.m., according to court documents.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney, Dianna Luce prosecuted the case. Following the verdict, Luce posted on social media, “I appreciate citizens sacrificing to perform jury service during these uncertain times.”