SC prison riot leaves seven dead
Bodies ‘stacked on top of each other,’ inmate says
BISHOPVILLE, S.C. – Gangs fighting over territory most likely triggered seven hours of violence that left seven people dead and 17 injured at a maximumsecurity prison containing some of South Carolina’s most dangerous convicts, authorities said Monday.
Clashes among inmates at Lee Correctional Institution erupted about 7:15 p.m. Sunday, state Corrections Department chief Bryan Stirling said at a news conference. The fighting spread to three housing units, but no officers were wounded, he said.
Stirling defended the time it took to put down the disturbance, saying law enforcement officers had to muster at the housing units one at a time, retaking control and placing inmates back in the cells. Such efforts routinely can take 90 minutes for just one dorm, he said.
“We gathered as many people as we could as quickly as we could and went in when we thought it was safe,” Stirling said.
An inmate at the scene told AP that correctional officers did not attempt to halt the inmate-on-inmate violence as bodies “literally stacked on top of each other.” The inmate, who said most of the inmates had gang affiliations, exchanged messages on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t supposed to have a cellphone and feared retribution from other inmates.
Stirling said teams entering the housing units faced no resistance from the inmates. He said order was completely restored by 3 a.m., and that department’s police service unit and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division were investigating the unrest.
Stirling has been pressing for the technical power and administrative authority to block cellphone signals from the prison. He said cellphones allow gang leaders to continue criminal operations while incarcerated.
The prison, which opened 25 years ago and holds about 1,300 of some of South Carolina’s most violent offenders, is no stranger to violence. Three weeks ago, inmates overpowered a guard, holding him hostage and taking control of part of a dorm for about 90 minutes.