Prison in­mate: Bodies were stacked up dur­ing riot

Seven dead, at least 17 in­jured in 7-hour fight

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY MEG KINNARD

COLUMBIA, S.C. | In­mates armed with home­made knives fought each other for more than seven hours in­side a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison, leav­ing seven of them dead in the worst U.S. prison riot in a quar­ter-cen­tury, of­fi­cials said.

An in­mate who wit­nessed the vi­o­lence told The As­so­ci­ated Press that bodies were “lit­er­ally stacked on top of each other.”

At least 17 pris­on­ers were se­ri­ously in­jured as in­mates fought un­in­ter­rupted be­fore au­thor­i­ties re­gained con­trol of Lee Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion about 3 a.m. Mon­day, said Jeff Tail­lon, spokesman for South Carolina pris­ons.

Of­fi­cials didn’t im­me­di­ately say what sparked the vi­o­lence at the prison that houses some of the state’s worst and long­est-serv­ing of­fend­ers. No prison guards were hurt.

The prisoner who saw the riot ex­changed mes­sages with AP on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he is not al­lowed to have a cell­phone and fears ret­ri­bu­tion from other in­mates.

He also didn’t say what started the riot but said most of the in­mates are af­fil­i­ated with gangs and he saw sev­eral at­tack­ers taunt a ri­val gang mem­ber who was badly in­jured.

“I just saw three dead on the side­walk out­side of my unit. One guy is still alive and breath­ing, but just barely,” the in­mate said.

The riot was the lat­est vi­o­lence in the South Carolina pris­ons sys­tem, where at least 13 other in­mates have been killed by fel­low pris­on­ers since the start of 2017 and was the most in­mates slain in a sin­gle riot in the U.S. since nine pris­on­ers and a guard died in 1993 at the South­ern Ohio Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity, said Steve Mar­tin, a con­sul­tant who helps the fed­eral gov­ern­ment mon­i­tor prison sys­tems.

The in­mate who spoke to AP said that many cell door locks al­ready were bro­ken be­fore the riot and that he and other pris­on­ers roamed around freely.

Hours af­ter the vi­o­lence started, no cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers or med­i­cal per­son­nel at­tended to the dead or dy­ing, he said.

“It’s been over two hours, but no COs [cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers] have re­sponded to this unit, and no med­i­cal per­son­nel have at­tempted to ren­der any kind of aid,” he wrote. “The COs never even at­tempted to ren­der aid, nor quell the dis­tur­bance. They just sat in the con­trol bub­ble, called the is­sue in, then sat on their col­lec­tive asses.”

South Carolina prison guards are not armed, so as long as em­ploy­ees aren’t threat­ened, they typ­i­cally seal off wings when there is an in­mate up­ris­ing and wait for a spe­cial team of state po­lice to ar­rive to try to stop the ri­ot­ing.

The in­mate told AP that he knew at least two of the slain men well. He said he saw an in­mate try­ing to get up be­fore he “started into that ‘death rat­tle’ peo­ple of­ten hear about, but never ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand.”

Most of the slain in­mates were stabbed with home­made knives or slashed, while the re­main­der ap­peared to have been beaten, Lee County Coroner Larry Lo­gan said.

The slain were serv­ing any­where from 10 years to life in prison and their crimes ranged from mur­der to bur­glary to traf­fick­ing crack co­caine. They youngest was 28 years old while the old­est was 44.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.