Seven inmates dead, 17 injured in South Carolina prison riot

7 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Monday, April 16 2018 Apr 16, 2018 Monday, April 16, 2018 12:40:39 PM CDT April 16, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — 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, South Carolina prisons spokesman Jeff Taillon said.

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 were already 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.

The injured inmates required medical attention outside the prison, which is located 40 miles east of Columbia.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections tweeted that the deaths happened in multiple inmate-on-inmate fights in three housing units. It began at around 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

The coroner said when he arrived it was a chaotic scene of fighting everywhere. Logan said the state-run Lee Correctional Institution, like most other South Carolina prisons, is struggling to find enough workers, but he doesn't believe anything could be done once things got that far out of control.

"If everybody has an uprising, you are always going to be understaffed," Logan said.

The maximum-security facility in Bishopville houses about 1,500 inmates. Two officers were stabbed there in 2015. More recently, an inmate held a guard hostage for 90 minutes in March and another killed a fellow prisoner in February.

The deaths at Lee are the most in any South Carolina prison in recent years. Four inmates were killed last year by a pair of prisoners at Kirkland Correctional Institution.

The riot was the latest violence in a system where 12 inmates were killed by other prisoners last year and 250 prisoners were assaulted so severely in 2016 and 2017 they had to be treated in outside hospitals, according to public records obtained by The Post and Courier of Charleston.

The 250 inmates taken to the hospital after assaults the past two years were nearly double the rate from the two years before, the newspaper reported.

Gov. Henry McMaster, meanwhile, expressed support for state prisons chief Bryan Stirling.

McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said the governor has "complete confidence" in Stirling's ability to lead the state Department of Corrections.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - Those struggling to afford holiday gifts for their loved ones may still have options. Registration ends today for... More >>
3 hours ago Monday, December 10 2018 Dec 10, 2018 Monday, December 10, 2018 3:27:53 AM CST December 10, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia firefighters responded to a fire at Columbia Crossing Apartments on Towne Drive late Sunday night. Division... More >>
7 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 11:30:00 PM CST December 09, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Treacherous driving conditions and canceled flights could keep residents stuck at home for days as a nasty mix... More >>
12 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 6:25:00 PM CST December 09, 2018 in News
OSAGE BEACH – A dog groomer in Osage Beach has made it a mission to train service dogs after she... More >>
16 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 2:08:00 PM CST December 09, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — University of Missouri faculty members are raising concerns that the system's move to offer buyouts to... More >>
19 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 11:47:00 AM CST December 09, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Officers with the Columbia Police Department responded to a shots fired call inside the Steak ‘n Shake on... More >>
20 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 10:38:00 AM CST December 09, 2018 in News
JAMESTOWN - Grace United Methodist Church held its seasonal music recital on Sunday featuring a 117-year-old historic church organ. ... More >>
20 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 9:58:00 AM CST December 09, 2018 in News
FULTON - Fulton police officers responded to the Fulton Medical Center regarding a possible assault early Sunday morning. According... More >>
21 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 9:00:00 AM CST December 09, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A Kansas City woman was arrested Saturday and charged with multiple felony counts of possession of a... More >>
23 hours ago Sunday, December 09 2018 Dec 9, 2018 Sunday, December 09, 2018 7:30:00 AM CST December 09, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - All weekend the Central Missouri Humane Society is encouraging people to come adopt animals. The humane society has... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 9:35:00 PM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Down Syndrome Guild of Central Missouri had its first learning seminar in Columbia on Saturday. The seminar... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 9:33:00 PM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia teen who was killed in a crash Saturday morning was a senior at Christian Fellowship School,... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 8:55:00 PM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Karis Church in northwest Columbia held its third annual Affordable Christmas event early Saturday morning. This is... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 6:40:00 PM CST December 08, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- White House chief of staff John Kelly will be leaving his position at the end of the year,... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 2:56:00 PM CST December 08, 2018 in News
CAMDEN COUNTY - A Camden County Sheriff's deputy was involved in a car crash Friday on Route MM near Villages... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 2:47:00 PM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Only one person was injured after two overnight fires kept fire crews busy into the weekend. ... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 8:33:00 AM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Runners and walkers dressed up in holiday wear for the annual Jingle Bell Run in Columbia on Saturday,... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 7:43:00 AM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A formerly homeless veteran is helping other vets expand their horizons by cycling. Tyler Kempker leads a... More >>
2 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 8:53:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 18°
7am 14°
8am 17°
9am 23°
10am 27°