MCALESTER, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma correctional officer who survived an inmate stabbing him in the neck with a pencil is being honored for his valor after the attack.

Photo goes with story
Sgt. Dustin Willbanks after an inmate stabbed him in the neck with a pencil. Photo provided by ODOC.

Sgt. Dustin Willbanks was awarded the 2021 Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) Medal of Valor Award for his courage after the attack on Oct. 8, 2021.

He is also receiving national acclaim for his heroism and professionalism.

The National American Association of Wardens & Superintendents will present Willbanks the Medal of Valor on April 27 during the organization’s annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. He will also receive the One Voice United Medal of Honor in Washington, D.C., at a banquet that will be held during May’s Law Enforcement Week.

“This is a truly valorous act,” said Eric Spierer, chairman of the Medal of Honor Committee, which presents this prestigious award to those who promote excellence in the field of corrections.

Willbanks was working in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) in McAlester on Oct. 8 when he and a shift partner attempted to escort a maximum security inmate to the shower.

The handcuffed inmate grabbed a sharp pencil and buried it into Willbanks’ neck.

Willbanks, with the pencil protruding from his neck, and his duty partner, Sgt. Mandi Morgan, stopped the attacker before others could be injured, ODOC officials said.

“Even after being attacked, Sgt. Willbanks used his training and dedication to subdue and control the inmate,” Jason Bryant, ODOC’s Chief Administrator of Institutions said. “Willbanks embodies the definition of what we expect in a correctional officer—good judgment, resourceful, professional, and self-disciplined.”

Willbanks walked to the penitentiary’s infirmary after securing the inmate and waited to be taken to a local hospital.

He returned to active duty within a week, a remarkable feat, said OSP Warden Jim Farris.

“The eagerness to resume his responsibilities so soon after the attack is commendable,” Farris said.

The Correctional Peace Officers Foundation will present Willbanks an award in June during a luncheon in Reno, Nev. The foundation honors corrections officers who survive a serious assault, injury or catastrophic event.

“Every day, correctional officers across the state do heroic work, whether it be through changing the life of an inmate with their professionalism and compassion or by protecting their fellow officers and other inmates,” said ODOC Director Scott Crow. “Sgt. Willbanks embodies everything we hope to find in a correctional officer. His selflessness and dedication to his profession were on full display that day. We’re extremely thankful for his rapid recovery and proud to see his heroism be recognized across the country.”