Skip to content

Press Release

Press Release

Red Onion State Prison Officer Receives Governor’s Honor Award for Heroism

October 09, 2019

RICHMOND — A Virginia Department of Corrections officer who intervened in a potentially fatal inmate attack on a fellow correctional officer has received the Governor’s Honor Award for Heroism.

Those familiar with the incident that occurred December 2, 2018, at the Red Onion State Prison say Officer Tyler Thornsberry’s quick response probably saved his fellow officer’s life. The offender now faces multiple charges, including attempted capital murder.

The incident occurred as an officer escorted the offender from his cell to a recreation area. The offender turned and began stabbing the officer with a weapon made of sharpened plastic.

Officer Thornsberry walked around a corner and found himself only a few feet from the struggle. He lunged into the situation as the other officer sustained serious stab injuries to the head and chest area.

With his momentum, Officer Thornsberry subdued and restrained the offender. “There really wasn’t much time to think,” he said. “I just reacted based on my training.”

“Officer Thornsberry responded quickly and effectively in a very stressful situation,” said Red Onion State Prison Warden Jeffrey Kiser, “and he quite possibly saved the other officer’s life.”

For his actions, the offender, Keith Dwane McDuffie, faces one count of attempted capital murder, two counts of assault and battery on a corrections officer, and one count of possession of an unauthorized weapon by an inmate. McDuffie has been arraigned and now has two January court dates scheduled in Wise County Circuit Court.

“In a critical moment, Officer Thornsberry responded like the well-trained officer that he is. His selflessness and courage in the face of danger make him a true hero,” said Director Harold Clarke. “The Commonwealth of Virginia is incredibly fortunate to have officers like Tyler Thornsberry.”

Before joining the VADOC in February 2018, Officer Thornsberry served for two years as a corrections officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections. As a new hire in Virginia, he received 10 weeks of training and spent an additional four to six weeks shadowing other officers.

Return to the top of the page