Prison attack victim: 'I fought with all I had'

10:33 PM, Nov 20, 2012   |    comments
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A prisoner at the Arkansas Correctional Facility attacked two prison workers with a knife seven weeks ago. Only Gann survived.

Gann touched her right cheek as she talked. She pushed her hair over her neck to hide the marks she says should not be there.

"We believe in miracles, because we see her," Gann's mom Beverley Halter said. "But, it is really hard to see the things that bother her."

"It's my face," Gann remarked.

Scars are healing on her ear, neck, cheek, nose and chin.

"It shouldn't have happened," she said. "I remember. I know exactly what happened. I just don't know why."

On Sep. 24 Sgt. Lori Gann went to work at the Arkansas Correctional Facility near Ordway, Colorado, like she had done every weekday morning for four years.

"I never worried much about going," Gann said. "I liked it."

Her family worried every day.

That morning, department of corrections investigators say an inmate working in the kitchen grabbed a knife and attacked Gann and one of her co-workers, Sgt. Mary Ricard.

Miguel Alonso Contreras-Perez was serving 35 years to life for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Colorado Springs. After the attack, Contreras-Perez was transferred to Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City.

Gann's son Brandon Gann is 18-years-old.

"I got woken up at 6:47. I didn't believe it could happen to my mom," Brandon Gann said.

Gann's 21-year-old son, Justin, said he worried about his mom working at the prison.

"I knew it could be dangerous. Then this happened," Justin said.

It was unspeakable brutality.

"At first we didn't know if our daughter would make it out," Gann's dad Ed Halter said.

Twice it was reported in Colorado Springs that Gann had died. Many times, she came close. Gann says it amazes her she made it out of the facility.

"They took me away in an ambulance. I remember that," she said.

The prison is in a remote area, southeast of Pueblo. Gann would not have survived the drive to the closest hospital.

"A medical helicopter met us half way. It landed on the side of the road," Gann explained.

She said that was the last thing she remembers.

The family waited about six hours as Gann was in surgery. Then they saw her.

"You see the pain with tubes and the worst experience I've ever felt or seen. I would never want anyone else to feel that, " Justin said.

When Gann regained consciousness she still had a breathing tube so she could only communicate by writing on paper.

"One of the things she wanted to know early on was about Mary, Mary Ricard," Gann's mom Beverly Halter said as she teared up. "It was really hard on her."

Mary Ricard, her friend and co-worker, had not survived the attack.

Lori Gann's face is partially paralyzed from the deep cuts to her cheek, neck and ear.

"The cut on my cheek went clear through to my gums," She said.

Her hands are scarred from fighting back.

"Oh, I fought with all I had," she remarked. "I did what I had to for my kids."

If Lori hadn't tucked her chin in a split second reaction to protect her throat, she says she would have died too.

"I think the cut on my cheek is because I looked down and it missed my neck," Gann said.

Doctors can't say for sure how many more surgeries Sgt. Lori Gann will endure. There will be months of therapy as she tries to regain use of the right side of her mouth and the other muscles in her face.

"It's a long road ahead physically," Gann explained.

Emotionally, there is no telling how long those wounds will linger.

"I'm glad I have people to talk to," Gann said.

She says her co-workers are the ones who understand best what she is going through.

"They are like part of my family," Gann said.

She says the department of corrections has been there for her since the beginning.

"They have been a huge support," she said.

Support has also come from all over the country. The attack that left Lori Gann critically injured resulted in the death of only the second correctional officer in Colorado since 1929.

There is a bag of cards in the Gann's living room.

"They are from California, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, and all over," Gann explained.

Gann says it means a lot.

She points to a few cards filled with dozens of signatures inside.

"These are from the inmates. They wanted to make sure I was OK," she said. "That really meant a lot that they'd even write."

The inmates also took up a collection. They gave $500 to a fund set up to help Lori support her children and deal with mounting many medical expenses.

Lori Gann's Mom says she still sees her daughter's beauty.

"I don't see the scars. I just see that she is here," Halter said.

"You can't change the way we look at her, ever," Justin said. "She has a beautiful face."

9NEWS Reporter Cheryl Preheim asked Gann, "Can you feel that way about yourself?" The answer came quickly. "No." Gann shook her head. "I can't. Not yet."

Lori Gann doesn't show much emotion. She has remarkable courage and strength. Less than a month after she was nearly killed she calmly said, "It's just part of me now."

Preheim asked, "Do you feel more sad or more angry?"
"I'm more angry," she answered. "I just don't think it should ever have happened."

Lori Gann is now focused on what happens next. She worries about how she'll be able to support her kids. Justin is in college and Brandon graduates from high school this year.

"It's really hard for me to ask for help," Gann said.

But they need it. They appreciate it.

"That is the one bright spot here. People have been wonderful to care about us," Gann said.

If you'd like to support Lori Gann in her recovery, there is a Paypal account linked at this website along with the bank fund information:

The "Support Fund for Lori Gann" Acct #40774
Power Credit Union, Pueblo West Branch.
120 S. Crescent Blvd,. Pueblo, CO 81007

Tom Clements is the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections. He said, "The DOC staff provides an important and valuable service to the citizens of Colorado each and every day. Tragic incidents like this remind us of the inherent dangers that our staff faces managing offenders in the State's correctional system. Please keep all of our staff in your thoughts during this challenging time."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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