|The Somerset County, Pennsylvania prison guard who police say was beaten to death by an inmate from Pittsburgh
was attacked because he confiscated a towel, according to court paperwork.
But it’s not what inmate Paul Kendrick allegedly used to shield his bunk from view that has sparked the ire of the state
prison guards union. It’s the kind of footwear that the lifer was said to be wearing when he delivered a kick to the head of
Sgt. Mark J. Baserman after beating him to the ground on Feb. 15 at State Correctional Institution Somerset.
Jason Bloom, president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, said Tuesday that Kendrick was wearing
a pair of heavy-soled Timberland boots that are available to the state’s roughly 50,000 inmates through the Department of
Corrections commissary system.
Now, Mr. Bloom and his union, which represents about 10,000 corrections officers, are asking the state to permanently ban
Timberlands and similar footwear.
Sgt. Baserman, 61, died Monday at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, becoming the first state prison
guard to die from an inmate assault in nearly 40 years.
Kendrick, 22, a murderer serving a life sentence, was apprehended and quickly moved to another facility. Mr. Bloom said
Kendrick used his Timberlands to deliver a “vicious kick.”
Information about the cause of Sgt. Baserman’s death was not available Tuesday from the Cambria County coroner’s office.
“They have regulations that they can buy certain sneakers, certain boots, certain footwear through the commissary. They
have since stopped allowing them to order Timberland boots, but that doesn’t do me a damn bit of good,” Mr. Bloom said.
“I’m looking for a drop-dead date, mark them as contraband, destroy them, get them out of the institution. They don’t need
to be there. It’s not like they’re going around doing heavy equipment work. They don’t need these boots inside an
The corrections department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a boot ban.
At some point on the day of the attack, Sgt. Baserman confiscated a towel that Kendrick was using to hide his bunk,
according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Around 7 p.m. in the common area of cell block F-B near the officer’s desk, Kendrick is seen on surveillance video speaking
with Sgt. Baserman. Kendrick struck the sergeant in the face, knocking him to the ground, and beats him, striking him in the
head and face eight to 10 times, the affidavit said.
Another corrections officer, identified as W. McDowell, tried to restrain Kendrick, but was instead knocked out, according to
Kendrick turned back to Sgt. Baserman, kicking him in the head, the affidavit said.
“I don’t see any need for an incarcerated inmate to be styling Timberland work boots,” Mr. Bloom said.
Pennsylvania State Police said Kendrick was apprehended without incident.
Mr. Bloom said that he did not believe there were any problems with staffing levels or ratios.
“I believe Sgt. Baserman was working his housing unit like he did every day. He was on one side, Officer McDowell was on
the other side. This inmate came forward to complain — it’s all over a towel hanging — and he sucker punched him and the
Mr. Bloom said he spoke with the corrections department after the assault.
“That’s why they halted the sale of them,” Mr. Bloom said. But as for emptying the prisons entirely of heavy-soled boots,
“They told me they were going to look at it.”
Mr. Bloom wants to maintain the use of Timberlands for his members, however. The home page of the union’s website
features a banner ad at the top that offers up to a 26 percent discount on Timberlands.
“Timberland is good footwear and my officers spend eight hours a day walking the toughest beat in the state. I’m not
condemning Timberlands. I’m condemning the process of inmates being able to purchase them.”
Kendrick was convicted in 2015 of first-degree murder in the death Aug. 1, 2014, of 21-year-old Maurice Freeman of
Arlington, who was shot while he was playing basketball.
State police have charged Kendrick with two counts each of assault by prisoner, aggravated assault and simple assault. Court
records do not indicate the addition yet of a homicide charge.
Sgt. Baserman joined the state Department of Corrections in 2007. He began working at SCI Somerset in 2012 and was
promoted to sergeant in 2016.
Mr. Bloom described Sgt. Baserman’s family as “ultra-private” and said they did not wish to share any information about