Bishopville, SC – Seven prisoners were killed, and another 17 injured, during a riot in a South Carolina prison that began on Sunday.
It took prison authorities at Lee Correctional Institution more than seven and a half hours to quell the disturbance that began at about 7:15 pm on April 15, The Washington Post reported. Ambulances lined up outside the prison to help treat the wounded when officials regained control and secured the prison.
Prison officials said that multiple fights between inmates broke out in three different housing units at the detection facility, but they did not yet know what had started the altercations and sparked the violence.
A prisoner who communicated with the Associated Press via a contraband cell phone said that most of the inmates involved in the riot were gang members.
The prisoner told Associated Press that “he saw bodies stacking up on each other and correctional officers didn't do anything to stop the violence or check on the injured.”
However, the Department of Corrections said that multiple crews had responded to the fights in the prison, according to KMOV. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the prison to assist during the incident.
Ambulances from at least seven other jurisdictions responded to the prison to help Lee County Fire/Rescue tend to and transport the wounded in what was considered a “mass casualty incident,” The Washington Post reported.
On Monday, authorities released the names of the prisoners who had been killed in the riot. The South Carolina Department of Corrections identified Raymond Angelo Scott, Michael Milledge, Damonte Marquez Rivera, Eddie Casey Jay Gaskins, Joshuia Svwin Jenkins, Corey Scott, and Cornelius Quantral McClary as the inmates who had been killed.
A coroner reported that most of the inmates who were killed died of slashing or stabbing wounds, the Associated Press reported.
Thom Berry, a spokesman for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), said his organization is working with prison officials “to determine what caused the disturbance.”
Lee Correctional Institution, located about 60 miles northeast of Columbia, is one of the state’s highest-security prisons and houses about 1,600 male inmates, according to The Washington Post. It is a Level 3 facility that opened in 1993, KMOV reported.
The prison has a history of violent problems.
As recently as March 23, inmates overpowered a corrections officer and held him hostage while they took control of a dorm for more than an hour before prison authorities were able to intervene, KMOV reported.
In 2010, inmates put out a hit on a corrections officer, using a contraband cell phone, and Captain Robert Johnson was shot six times during an attack on him at home, according to KMOV.
Three inmates have been killed in violent episodes at Lee Correctional Institution since August of 2017.
Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling attributed the increasing violence to inmates obtaining cellphones, chronic understaffing, gang rivalries and a higher ratio of violent prisoners to nonviolent ones, The Washington Post reported.