HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The man charged with attacking a Harris County sheriff’s sergeant appeared in court Wednesday morning.
Jeremiah Williams, 27, is charged with sexual assault in connection with the incident. The judge set his total bond at $3.5 million for a total of four charges.
That includes two prior assault charges and the two new ones for allegedly assaulting that sergeant and attacking her in an administrative office of the jail facility.
"We had an inmate that brutally assaulted one of our sergeants," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. "She is well-loved and respected by many. It shakes one to the core because this is so unusual."
The sheriff said Williams left a bible study class unescorted and ambushed the sergeant in her office.
Williams was in jail after a September arrest for allegedly attacking two women jogging at a park. One of those victims was sexually assaulted. The other got away.
“It sends the message that this is such a dangerous person we don’t want him in the community,” prosecutor Jamie Burro said. “Harris County deserves to be protected from somebody like this. Honestly, the staff at the jail need to be protected from somebody like this.”
If Williams bonds out, the judge ordered he would be on house arrest.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez addresses sexual assault at jail
As Williams appeared in court, Gonzalez addressed ongoing concerns about safety and security at the jail at a news conference. Those concerns have ramped up again after this week's assault.
“We have in my opinion, a bad actor who took advantage of an opening. Saw perhaps a gap in the system and manipulated that to his advantage and at the end of the day, committed a serious and heinous crime,” Gonzalez said.
In addition to the criminal investigation. the sheriff's office is conducting an internal investigation to improve security. There have been 1,200 assaults reported on jailers this year, the sheriff said.
"We’re not minimizing and saying, 'Everything’s great. No it’s not," he admitted. The staffing is a concern. The assaultive behavior that we’re seeing is a concern."
The jail meets the minimum state requirements for staffing ratio, which is one jailer for every 48 inmates.
But the Harris County Sheriff's union says more staff is needed to back up burned out jailers who are worried about their safety. Entry level jailers make $40,000 to $41,000 before overtime.
Gonzalez admits there's room for improvement and said they're working on a staffing plan that would give jailers a weekend day off. They're also considering outsourcing inmates to handle the overflow and relieve some of the pressure on jailers. They haven't done that since 2017.
Despite the issues, Gonzalez insists the jail isn't broken.
"When you’re talking about the largest jail in Texas and the third largest in the country, it’s a city within a city. It’s a huge operation," Gonzalez said. "Some things we do good, some things we do great and some things we obviously need to do better."
Watch Sheriff Ed Gonzalez's full press conference below.
Jeremiah Williams charged in previous attacks
Williams was arrested in September for allegedly attacking two other women who were jogging in a west Harris County park. He already faced charges of sexual assault, assault and felony evading in that case, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
A 45-year-old woman told deputies she was running along a trail in the 16500 block of Smithstone Drive in the Copperfield area on Sept. 7 around 8 p.m. when she was struck in the back of the head. The suspect allegedly punched her again in the face and body as the woman fell. That's when he sexually assaulted her, deputies said.
A 27-year-old woman was jogging in the same park a short time later when Williams also allegedly ran up behind her and tackled her to the ground. He placed his hand over her mouth and nose, and the woman kicked and fought him off.
Williams ran off but was later found by deputies in the 6300 block of Bowtrail, not far from the park. He was arrested with the help of Precinct 5 deputy constables.
At the time, his bond was set at $145,000.