An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) employee who was viciously attacked last year while on the job has died, according to news reports.
Pamela Knight was attempting to take a 2-year-old boy into protective custody when she was allegedly beaten by 25-year-old Andrew Sucher of Rock Falls, Illinois. In the September 2 incident, officials say Sucher knocked the 59-year-old Knight down and kicked her in the head, fracturing her skull and causing permanent brain damage.
Knight, who spent two months in a coma after the assault and underwent multiple surgeries, died earlier this month. An autopsy performed by the Cook County medical examiner’s office determined that Knight died "complications of blunt force head injuries due to assault."
Sucher was previously charged with felony aggravated battery of a child in connection with an attack on a six-year-old boy. His girlfriend filed an order of protection against him and a two-year-old child was placed in the custody of his parents – which was where Knight went to look for the child. Although she had taken a police escort on an earlier visit to Sucher’s home, she did not request one for the Sept. 29 visit. DCFS workers are not allowed to carry Mace during home visits.
Falls has pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree murder.
In a statement, DCFS director Beverly Walker said: “DCFS is deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague, Pamela Knight...The work many at DCFS do is not easy. Frontline staff are first responders to children and families in crisis and Pamela’s work has always set an example for all of us who work to protect children.”
AFSCME, the union that represents DCFS workers, has been urging DCFS to adopt new measures to keep child protective workers safe on the job, including improved training to identify and de-escalate dangerous situations, and greater freedom to work in pairs or call for a police escort if needed.
“We're pushing the employer to do everything possible to reduce the risks child protective workers face every day,” said AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch.