BREAKING NEWS: Riot under control; one dead, four injured

Published 6:02 pm Sunday, May 20, 2012

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Smoke — likely tear gas — fills the sky around the Adams County Correctional Center.

For photos from the scene click here.

11:45 p.m. update — The ACCC and ACSO report that the situation is under control.

11 p.m. update — People, apparently with weapons, and presumably SWAT team members, are walking on the roof of the prison.

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10:20 p.m. update — The exterior of the prison has been calm for approximately an hour. The fire inmates set outside the prison, but inside the fence, is no longer visible, though smoke still fills the air.

A SWAT team is stationed outside, and ambulances are still on the scene. A crowd is still gathered across the highway.

Law enforcement — some from Concordia Parish and Ferriday — continue to arrive.

The ACSO has issued a release saying no prisoners have escaped.

9:11 p.m. update — Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said approximately eight staff members are still inside the prison, and a number of agencies are working to get them out.

He said they know where some of them are and have spoken to some through the fence. He doesn’t believe remaining staff members are injured.

Mayfield estimated between 200 and 300 inmates of the more than 2,000 at the facility are causing the problems.

He said the agencies were able to release 15 ACCC employees at once by opening a fence and protecting the route with guns. Two of the employees let out in the group of 15 had non-life-threatening injuries.

Inmates lit what Mayfield described as a campfire at the facility with wood and other available materials.

At one point, the agencies used pepper spray to control the crowd.

The inmates causing the problem are not armed with traditional weapons.

“Just things like wood and things like that — trash can lids,” Mayfield said.

Inmates don’t have access to weapons because guards do not carry them, “and that’s the reason why,” he said.

Mayfield said he didn’t expect the riot to last too much longer, and that the scene was calming down.

Mayfield assured that no inmates have escaped the outer prison walls.

8:25 p.m. — Flames are visible outside the front portion of the facility inside the razor wire fence. It resembles a bonfire. Hundreds of onlookers remain on the site, some with blankets and lawn chairs.

8:15 p.m. update — A CCA press release from the Adams County facility says five employees have been transported to a local hospital for treatment of various injuries. Additional staff members are being treated for injuries onsite.

The “inmate disturbance” began at 2:40 p.m. and is ongoing, the release says.

“Currently, the inner compound and portions of housing units are the focus of remaining efforts to quell the disturbance,” the release says.

The facility’s trained Special Operations Response Team has been activated. Additional SORT teams from other CCA facilities have also been activated and are en route to the facility to support ACCC staff.

CCA will investigate the cause of the incident once the disturbance has been resolved.

Mayfield said the riot was attributed to internal power struggle among the inmates involving hierarchies within the inmate population.

7:45 p.m. update — One guard injured in the incident has died, Coroner James Lee says. Multiple rounds of gunfire can be heard coming from inside the prison.

Lee said he could not provide any other information other than to confirm the death of the guard. Witnesses near the scene outside the prison heard what sounded like gunfire.

Witness also reported seeing white smoke, which could possibly be tear gas.

“The situation is very high tension out there right now,” Lee said.

7:30 p.m. update — An unidentified white smoke is coming up from the prison.

NATCHEZ — An apparent ongoing prison riot at Adams County Correctional Facility has resulted in injuries of at least three staff members and one prisoner.

Three staff members, including one with severe injuries, were transported to the hospital, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said. One prisoner with minor injuries is awaiting transport, he said.

An Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter also landed at the prison just before 5 p.m.

Adams County Sheriff’s deputies and the Mississippi Highway Patrol are still at the scene at the facility off of U.S. 84.

Mayfield said Warden Vance Laughlin, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and the MHP are continuing to attempt to get the inside of the prison under control. He said prisoners are starting to voluntarily go back to their cells and the situation has gotten better, but he called the riot control a “fluid situation.”

“We’re working on a plan right now,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said sheriff’s deputies and Mississippi Highway Patrol have the outer gates of the prison surrounded.

“There’s nobody (that has) gotten out of the prison, and (I have) no anticipation that will happen; (the problem) is all internal,” Mayfield said.

Adams County Correctional Facility, a Corrections Corporations of America facility, houses low-security prisoners, most of who are illegal immigrants who committed offenses in the United States and will be returned to their country of origin after completing their sentences. It is a 2,567-bed facility.

A prison spokesperson has said more information is coming shortly.

Further updates will be provided here as information is confirmed.