Joseph Twigger said he didn't think twice in the emergency room at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg this week when he saw a county jail inmate trying to grab a sheriff deputy's gun.
On Monday, an inmate was draped over Deputy Edgar Fink, who was pinned against a wall with his hand clutched to his service revolver. The inmate was reaching for the weapon, said Twigger, who knew the deputy from his days as a Greensburg police officer.
"The inmate looked at me as he was struggling with Ed and said, 'You know what I'm going to do if I get hold of it,' " the 66-year-old Hempfield resident and former Marine recalled Wednesday. "I just saw someone in trouble and attempted to help. ... I support law enforcement. I'd do it again if the situation arose."
Twigger said both he and Fink kept telling the inmate, Robert D. Wagner, 54, to let go of the firearm. Twigger grabbed Wagner's left arm and "twisted it over his head until he let go."
At that point, hospital security and nursing staff rushed in and helped secure Wagner.
"I was advised by Deputy Fink it took all four individuals to get Wagner under control and properly restrained to the bed," Greensburg police Officer Elliott Fejes wrote in the criminal complaint.
Wagner, who had been in jail on a bond revocation in connection with a minor drug paraphernalia case, was arraigned Wednesday on new charges of aggravated assault in an attempt to cause serious injury, assault by a prisoner, disarming a law enforcement officer, harassment and reckless endangerment. He was ordered held without bond. District Judge Chris Flanigan deemed him a danger to the public.
Wagner has been in the county jail since Aug. 18. He had gone to the emergency room for treatment of a minor health issue, according to Sheriff Jim Albert. Fink had just relieved another deputy who was standing guard over a handcuffed and shackled Wagner. Wagner had been uncuffed so he could use the men's room, Albert reported.
Twigger was in a room across the hall with his wife, Rose, who was being treated in the emergency room when the commotion broke out just before 3 p.m.
Twigger, who retired June 4 from the state unemployment office in Greensburg, recalled that he spotted Fink earlier and the pair made small talk.
Fejes reported that Wagner was restrained in handcuffs and leg shackles and Fink was refastening Wagner's handcuffs to the bed rails when the inmate reached for the deputy's weapon.
"You know that guy was in there on a minor drug charge and probably would have been let go from the county prison by today if it wasn't for this assault," Albert said. "It just shows you can never, ever let your guard down, and I've been preaching that to the deputies. ... You've got to continue to treat them as if they're still in the county jail, even if they're at the hospital. ... No matter the charge, you can't be complacent."
"We were definitely blessed in this case and thankful Twigger was there and helped out," Albert said.
Twigger downplayed his action.
"Like I said, I saw someone in trouble and was just helping out," Twigger said. "I also support law enforcement and would support them anytime they call for help."
Twigger said his son, Chad, is a federal officer at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He also has two cousins with the Pennsylvania State Police.
"I'd do it again in a minute. I just was reacting," he said.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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