Jackson Co. Jail inmate charged with brutally beating guard, who is now fighting for his life, just hours before Thanksgiving

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Jackson County correctional officer is fighting for his life after a vicious attack inside the jail late Wednesday night.

According to court records, 20-year-old Johnny R. Dunlap was in Pod C of the Jackson County Detention Center late Wednesday when he assaulted an on-duty corrections officer.  The officer was listed in critical condition after suffering injuries, including fractured facial and nasal bones.

Surveillance video and witness statements revealed the defendant assaulted the corrections officer with a variety of items, including a plastic cone, for several minutes. The victim was unconscious for much of the assault.

Dunlap now faces one count of first-degree assault and one count of armed criminal action.

Prosecutors requested a bond of $250,000. The charges carry a punishment of up to life in prison.

The Jackson County jail has come under heavy fire in recent months, resulting from multiple reports concerning the safety of inmates and guards.  An outside auditor called the jail a "crisis" earlier this year.  Many say this brazen assault is more reason to be concerned.

Sources tell FOX 4 the guard was sitting alone at his desk, supervising a pod that is considered highly dangerous.  The guard was reportedly left alone to supervise more than 35 inmates.

Sources say Dunlap had been let out of his cell to shower, came up to the guard from behind and started brutally beating him.  At one point, we're told the guard blacked out and was hit with some kind of blunt object.  Sources say the attack went on for eight minutes before another corrections officer noticed and called for help.

The guard, who officials have not yet identified, was taken to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Dunlap told detectives he assaulted the guard because of “pent up anger toward his perception of racism toward him for being black”…although he couldn’t cite any instances where the victim displayed racist behavior.

Dunlap also told detectives he has mental health problems and “heard voices” telling him to beat the guard. Then said he’d apologize to the guard “if he makes it through.”

This attack comes just one week after County Executive Frank White announced a new task force to examine all the issues inside the county jail, and whether it makes more sense to fix the problems or build a new jail.

White released a statement following Wednesday's attack:

"Our corrections officers are dedicated, hard-working professionals, who have the difficult job of ensuring the safety and welfare of inmates. They are an important component of our criminal justice system. I admire the work they do to keep our community safe and they deserve to be treated with respect. As I’ve stated numerous times, the safety and security of our corrections officers will always be of utmost importance.

My administration and I take these assaults very seriously. Such violent behavior by inmates toward our corrections officers will not be tolerated. It is our hope that the person responsible for this assault will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the corrections officer who was injured in this assault. We are fully committed to supporting the corrections officer and his family throughout this difficult process.”

Meanwhile, jail employees are scared to come to work and worry attacks like the one Wednesday night will embolden other inmates.

County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker sent out a message on Twitter saying, "I’m praying for a Jackson County jail guard fighting for his life after a vicious attack by an inmate. Charges are forthcoming - And I’ll continue to pray. But that’s not enough. Change is needed...now."

Charges were announced shortly after her tweet.