South Carolina prison officials say seven inmates have been killed and 17 others needed medical treatment after a riot Sunday night at Lee Correctional Institution near Bishopville.
The state Department of Corrections released the information on the mass casualty incident via Twitter late Sunday night into Monday morning.
The SCDC said no prison employees or corrections officers were injured.
The incident at Lee CI resulted in 17 inmates requiring outside medical attention and 7 inmates were killed.
— SC Dept. Corrections (@SCDCNews) April 16, 2018
Lee Correctional Institution was secured at 2:55 AM following an incident which started at 7:15 PM. The incident involved multiple inmate on inmate altercations in three housing units.
— SC Dept. Corrections (@SCDCNews) April 16, 2018
Corrections Department director Bryan Stirling said the incident began when a fight occurred at a prison dorm around 7:15 p.m. Sunday evening. He said emergency officials were notified, but another fight then broke out in two other dorms. He said the fights were over “territory” and contraband.
“This was all about territory. This was about contraband. This was about cell phones,” he said. “And you’ve heard us talk about these over and over again. These folks are fighting over real money and real territory while they’re incarcerated.”
Stirling said officials waited for reinforcements before reentering the dorm, even as some inmates were fatally injured.
“We gathered people as quickly as we could and went in there as quickly as we could,” he said, adding that low staffing remains an issue at all state facilities. “Before we can go into a dorm — just so you know — there’s about 250-260 inmates in each dorm. We’re not going to just send one or two officers in there. We’re going to gather a force that is safe for all our officers and we’re going to go in and we’re going to take that dorm back with force. And if there’s any resistance we’ll be able to put that resistance down immediately.”
SLED responded around 9:20 p.m., but did not move to retake control of the first dorm for until 11:30 p.m. The team entered the second dorm around 12:30 a.m., and the third after 2 a.m. Stirling said the corrections officers did not encounter any resistance when they reentered the dorms.
“We did everything that we could in our power to get there as quickly as possible,” he said. “Again, we have to go in and make sure that we go in safely with enough force so if there is a response from the immediate population we can put it down immediately.”
Stirling has been campaigning for years to have cell phone signals jammed at prisons. He said this incident was another example of what can happen when inmates have access to cell phones.
“We can talk about solutions but until that’s done the folks who are incarcerated are going to continue their criminal ways from behind bars, which is not only dangerous inside our institutions, but it’s also dangerous outside our institutions,” he said.
SCDC Police Services and SLED are investigating the incident. The agency identified the dead as Raymond Scott, Michael Milledge, Damonte Rivera, Eddie Gaskins, Joshua Jenkins, Corey Scott and Cornelius McClary. Lee County Coroner Larry Logan told The State newspaper the deaths appear to be from stabbing, but an autopsy is needed. It’s not clear what started the fight.
Lee Correctional is notorious for being one of the state’s most dangerous prisons, where violent offenders are housed in maximum-security conditions.
Information on deceased inmates according to SCDC records:
- Raymond Angelo Scott, 28, serving sentence out of Sumter Co. for assault and battery and firearms violations
- Michael Millege, 44, serving sentence for convictions in Marlboro and Greenville counties for assault and battery, drugs and firearms
- Damonte Marquez Rivera, 24, serving life sentence for murder, armed robbery burglary, and kidnapping conviction out of Georgetown Co.
- Eddie Casey Jay Gaskins, 32, serving sentence for domestic violence in Berkeley Co.
- Joshua Svwin Jenkins, 33, serving sentence for attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter and burglary from Orangeburg and Berkeley counties
- Corey Scott, 38, convicted of assault and battery, criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping in McCormick and Florence counties
- Cornelius Quantral McClary, 33, convicted of assault and battery, burglary, criminal conspiracy and firearms charge in Williamsburg Co.
Governor Henry McMaster supported the SCDC’s response to the violence and repeated Stirling’s call for jamming cell phone signals at prisons.
“These people in this prison, many of them have very violent records and we cannot expect them to give up their violent ways when they go to prison,” McMaster said. “They take those violent ways with them. We need to do the very best we can to see that these things do not happen.”
SCDC said Lee County Emergency Services assisted in the incident. Lee County Fire reported via Twitter assistance was provided by “Florence County EMS, Kershaw County EMS, Darlington County EMS, Lexington County EMS and Hartsville Rescue. Assistance was also received from Med One a private service.”