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Officials: Inmate who 'pummeled' jailer in isolation

MANATEE — A Manatee County jail deputy may have to undergo surgery after an inmate attacked him, knocking his teeth out and breaking several bones in his face, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Randy Warren.

Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Hare remained at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg on Monday, three days after being flown by helicopter from the jail after the attack.

Deputies arrested inmate Steve Hunt, 38, on a charge of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and he has been placed in isolation, Warren said.

“It is safe to say he is going to be in a very secure environment,” said Warren. “Our deputies in the jail are put in a tough spot all the time. It is the nature of what they do.”

Sheriff’s reports say at about 10 p.m. Friday, Hare was doing routine checks of cell pods when he encountered Hunt. The two exchanged words before Hunt pounced.

Hunt struck the deputy several times in the face, knocking him to the ground. Hunt then jumped on Hare and continue to “pummel” him in the face until he lost consciousness, the sheriff’s report said. Reports say Hare suffered a broken jaw, eye socket and orbital bone.

Warren said several inmates witnessed Hunt’s attack and alerted other deputies of the incident. The jail was put on lockdown as all available deputies responded to the pod.

“As it often happens in situations like this, the inmates helped us. From what they are telling us this guy has been a real bully in the pod,” said Warren.

Deputies in the jail had also reported Hunt having “an attitude problem,” prior to the attack, Warren said. A full investigation will be conducted into what started the fight and how deputies responded, according to Warren.

“We got there very quickly which is good because it was a severe situation,” he said.

Hunt was in jail after his arrest in July 2008 on a charge of sale of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a church. He is no stranger to being behind bars, previously serving time in prison for armed robbery and possession of cocaine.

In May 2008, sheriff’s deputies arrested Hunt on a charge of beating an elderly man during a dispute over a parking spot, but the state attorney’s office declined to prosecute a charge of aggravated battery on an elderly person older than 65.

Hunt is currently being held without bond in the Manatee County jail, and sheriff’s officials are already talking prison time as punishment for Friday’s attack.

“I think we have a good case to prove he did this, and I would think the nature of the crime would mean prison time for this individual,” Warren said.

Robert Napper, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7024.