End of Watch: 06/15/1979
Agency: Department of Corrections
County: Walla Walla County
On Friday, June 15, 1979, Sergeant William Cross of the Washington State Department of Corrections was stabbed to death at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
At about 1750 hours, Officer Ernest Jordon spotted an inmate with a knife outside the dining hall as other inmates were eating inside. As he walked over to confront the inmate, he unknowingly was walking into a confrontation between Mexican American and Native American gang members. Tension between the two groups of inmates had been increasing throughout the year, but came to a boiling point after inmate Louis Broncheau, a Lapwai Indian, was found stabbed to death the Tuesday before. His body was found in the inmates’ resident-council office.
Sergeant Cross saw that things were starting to get out of hand so he responded to the area to help Officer Jordon. James (Jimi) Simmons began arguing with Sergeant Cross, telling him to leave the area. He then spit on Sergeant Cross. Officer Jordon and Sergeant Cross were then suddenly attacked and that’s when Sergeant Cross was stabbed by Jimi’s brother, George. Both brothers were gang members and members of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Officer Jordon was able to get away and find help. However, by the time they were able to return to the area of the attack, Sergeant Cross was deceased.
Initially, four inmates were placed into segregation cells while an investigation was conducted into Sergeant Cross’s murder. It was believed that the gang population inside the prison began arming itself after Broncheau’s killing to retaliate against his killers.
The entire prison was placed in lockdown for 130 days as each room and cell were searched and a complete investigation was completed.
George Simmons was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He committed suicide in 1981. Jimi Simmons was acquitted of all charges in 1981 and was eventually paroled in 1983 on his assault charges relating to his original incarceration.
Sergeant Cross is survived by his wife, parents, and brother.