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Flags to fly at half-staff on Arizona state buildings to honor MCSO officer

(MCSO Photo; Twitter Photo)

PHOENIX – Flags on Arizona state buildings will fly at half-staff Thursday in honor of a Maricopa County sheriff’s officer who died on the job this week.

Detention Officer Gene Lee, a six-year veteran, died Wednesday, one day after being attacked by an inmate at a Phoenix jail, authorities said.

Lee had been in a coma.

“Lee put his life on the line to ensure the safety of his fellow citizens and officers,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement released by his office.

“Our hearts go out to the entire Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and our prayers are with Officer Lee’s family and loved ones.”

Sheriff Paul Penzone said a prisoner at the Lower Buckeye Jail grabbed Lee by the throat from behind and kicked his feet out from under him.

Lee hit the cement floor headfirst and passed out.

He was taken to Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, where surgeons operated to relieve blood and pressure on his brain.

Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes Show on Thursday that Lee left a career as an engineer to work in law enforcement.

“He just felt that he wanted more purpose, from his perspective, and his life to serve in a different capacity,” Penzone said.

“He wanted to be a part of serving the public, but he also wanted to be part of an organization and a profession where he felt there was camaraderie, that he felt was a common mission to serve others.”

The sheriff said coworkers called Lee a “soft-spoken man, but a very positive, happy person.”

“We take for granted the sacrifices that men and women in public safety make everyday,” Penzone said.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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