If you were going to make a list of the most insanely-tough jobs on the face of the planet, you’d probably have to list being a prison guard in the Florida Department of Corrections fairly high on the list. Sure, we all pretty much hate our jobs and would seriously consider sticking an arm into the whirring gears of a grain thresher if it meant we might be able to collect a worker’s comp check every week for the rest of our lives, but no matter how bad you’re dreading the morning grind after a long weekend, you can honestly take some degree of solace in the fact that your job probably doesn’t involve getting mean-mugged for eight hours a day by real-life murderers who want nothing more than to beat you to death with your own arms. It’s all the bullshit of a regular job – asshole co-workers, shitty break room coffee, long hours of boredom, and setting your alarm clock for six AM every weekday, except that when someone gets “a case of the Mondays” they shank three inmates to death with a pencil, set a mattress on fire, and try to bite you. Sure, working as a barista in a rich suburb is an undertaking so inhuman that it should probably fulfill some sort of court-ordered Community Service requirement, but no matter how many soccer moms roll their eyes and sigh loudly into their iPhones at least you don’t constantly have to really worry about a mass-murdering psychopath with a swastika face tattoo coming over the counter and trying to give you a tracheotomy with a sharpened spoon.
Officer Reeshemah Taylor of the Osceola County Department of Corrections not only spends her work week locked behind barbed wire with hundreds of violent arsonists, murderers, rapists, and thieves, she does this in the state of Florida, which for some reason seems to breed a rare type of person that you don’t typically encounter outside of an insane asylum or one of those bizarre cartoons on Adult Swim that make absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever. For Officer Taylor and her co-workers, every day is a life-or-death struggle – since 2001, there have been seven corrections officers in Florida killed in the line of duty, with presumably many more injured. The only way to keep order and stay alive when your job puts you within arm’s reach of Crips, Latin Kings, Aryan Brotherhood, motorcycle gangs, serial killers, bank robbers, drug dealers, and various other unsavory characters with absolutely nothing to lose is by being smart, careful, and so insanely over-the-top badass that nobody even thinks about fucking with you.
June 22nd, 2009 started like pretty much every single day of Officer Taylor’s career – get up, eat some breakfast, get your kids off to school, and then drive your sensible vehicle past sniper towers and guard dogs into a hardcore escape-proof facility populated by a few hundred convicted felons and like a dozen armed guards.
Taylor was assigned to the Medical Unit of the Osceola County Jail that day, patrolling the sickbay, when she suddenly realized that something was wrong. She’d been trying to get a hold of one of her co-workers on her walkie-talkie, but for some reason this guy wasn’t responding when she asked him to check in. Now, radio problems are probably fairly normal in this kind of job, and maybe the dude was just busy or something, but being a prison guard isn’t the sort of job where you can just shrug “fuck it,” kick your feet up on the desk, put on a YouTube video, and chill until your co-worker shows up. If he’s not responding, you gotta make sure he’s OK.
Calling in on her radio again, Reeshemah Taylor headed through the Medical Unit towards the prison cells on the other side, checking in on the other officer’s last known position. As she entered the cell block, she heard something, ever so faint, coming from a cell on the far side of the corridor. A man’s voice, whispering something urgent.
She hustled to the cell to investigate.
When she entered, she immediately felt the barrel of a nine millimeter semi-automatic handgun press against her forehead.
The inmate’s name was never released, but he has been identified as a member of the Netas, an insanely-terrifying Puerto Rican street gang known for running drugs and guns, attacking rival gang members in prison, and for encouraging its members to launch brutal ambushes against police officers and prison guards whenever the opportunity seems convenient. Their most famous act of over-the-top horror-movie fucked-up-shit was in the early 1980s, when a group of Netas found themselves incarcerated on the same cell block as the leader of a rival game, Los 27. An enterprising group of Netas spent weeks using sharpened spoons and their bare hands to dig a goddamned hole in the wall between them and the Los 27 gang leader, attacked him in the middle of the night, stabbed him 150 times, and chopped him into 84 pieces. They mailed his finger to the guy’s mother, his foot to the prison warden, and FedEx’ed the dude’s eyes to his second-in-command.
When I ran a Google Image Search for the Netas Association, this was the first thing that popped up:
Yeah, that’s pretty intense.
Like I said, I don’t know this inmate’s name, but he probably didn’t have all the face tattoos, because his plan was basically the same thing Jean Reno uses to trick Gary Oldman in The Professional. The inmate, who was literally serving three consecutive fucking life sentences without the possibility of parole for his role in numerous bank robberies, assaults, and homicides, had faked sick, gained a transfer to a cell in the Medical Unit, ambushed a guard, knocked him out, stripped him of his uniform, and taken his weapon.
His plan was pretty fucking simple – dress up like a guard and walk out the front door of the facility. If any cops tried to stop him, kill as many of them as he could.
When Officer Reeshemah Taylor stared down the barrel of her co-workers service pistol, she immediately recognized the man with his finger on the trigger. In that one split-second instant, she knew this maniac could cap her, get re-captured, be sentenced to yet another life sentence, and still consider the entire ordeal a Win because at least he got to kill a cop in the process.
His cold gaze locked on her, and he opened his mouth to shout-whisper an order to his new captive.
She reacted before he could even get a word out.
In one lightning-quick, gut-instinct, fuck-you-better-do-something-or-you’re-gonna-die moment, Officer Reeshemah Taylor of the Osceola County Department of Corrections stared down a cold-blooded hardcore murderer twice her size and then ducked her head away from the pistol, grabbed it with both hands, redirected it away from her face, stepped back, and then threw her entire body weight into a full-on fucking knee strike to the gonads, slamming her femur into his junk with an epic ballknock so badass it probably blew out the windows at the high school across the street (and yes, there is a high school across the street from the Osceola County Jail).
Now, keep in mind here that this guy is a notorious gang member, and probably very high on the list of the most dangerous men in the entire building. He’s huge. He’s killed people. He’s already overpowered another guard and taken his weapon. This guy had a foot of height and maybe a hundred pounds on Officer Taylor.
Of course, the ballknock is a very powerful attack. The effects of having his nuts plowed up into his esophagus caused him to drop the pistol, which hit the ground and skittered across the cell.
Despite the agonizing pain of having your sack used as a punching back, this guy still spun on his heel, turned, and dove for the gun.
But he wasn’t going to escape Officer Reeshemah Taylor that easily.
Officer Taylor knew she had to strike while she had this guy on the ropes. The second he spun, she threw her arm around his neck, grabbed his throat in the crook of her elbow in a fucking choke hold, and pulled this guy down to the ground. When he hit the deck, she got her legs around him, scissoring her legs around his midsection and clamping down to cut off his ability to squirm away or breathe properly.
With her free hand that wasn’t currently choking the fuck out of a 200-pound convicted murderer, Officer Taylor pulled her radio, and called in the code for backup to converge on her position immediately.
Typical response time for something like that is about thirty seconds. Which I imagine is a goddamned eternity when you’re in a life-or-death wrestling match with a rampaging psychopath twice your size who is actively trying to break free from your insane kung fu grip and shoot you and all of your co-workers in the face.
Despite straining all of her muscles to their absolute limit, Officer Taylor clamped that fucking rear naked choke on a tatted-up muscle bro gang member and locked that dude down until help could arrive.
For her incredible bravery, mad kung fu actions skills, and complete inability to succumb to her own imminent mortality, in 2011 Officer Reeshemah Taylor was awarded the Medal of Valor, which is the highest award a police officer, firefighter or EMT can be awarded by the United States Government. The citation speaks for itself:
“Ofc. Taylor engaged an inmate that was far superior in size, strength, motivation, and intention.
She successfully subdued this inmate through sheer determination, instincts, will, and courage.
Her efforts, in the face of imminent death, saved the lives of many.”
"You all share — you're all crazy, God love you — you all share a selflessness
that's not easy to explain, a commitment to your fellow man that's rare, a bravery that inspires."
- Vice President Joe Biden, to the 2011 Medal of Valor recipients
Medal of Valor Citation
American Jail Association
WJHG 7 News
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund