Sheriff: FBI gathering evidence on scene

Published 12:57 pm Monday, May 21, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield discusses the events surrounding the Sunday prison uprising at the Adams County Correctional Center. With Mayfield was Adams County Coroner James Lee.

6 p.m. update:

Authorities are currently working to determine whether criminal investigations into the riot at the Adams County Correctional Center will be handled on the local or federal level.

Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield talked with Corrections Corporation of America officials this evening regarding the investigation and said his office is on standby, waiting for word from the FBI about jurisdiction.

Authorities want to determine whether or not the FBI can prosecute the case on the federal level since the ACCC has a federal contract to house prisoners.

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FBI agents are on scene at the prison today, collecting evidence from multiple scenes where guards were injured or held hostage, Mayfield said.

The prison is still on lockdown indefinitely.

Mayfield said he believes the prison has good video footage of what occurred during the riot. He’s hopeful it will show the assaults.

2 p.m. update:

Prison worker Catlin Carithers, who later died, was apparently assaulted on the roof of one of the prison’s buildings, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said.

Mayfield also said no guns were fired at the prison Sunday, despite what spectators thought they heard. The pepper balls used in crowd control are fired from something similar to a paintball gun, and can sometimes sound like gunfire, he said.

“A lot of times these weapons can sound like guns, but there were no guns involved,” Mayfield said.

The prisoners were all escorted to the eastern recreation yard, where they were searched before being taken to the housing units.

Mayfield will meet with CCA later this afternoon.

11:30 a.m. update:

Inmates involved in a prison riot that left a correctional officer at the Adams County Correctional Center dead Sunday could face charges of capital murder, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and inciting to riot, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said.

The officer, 24-year-old Catlin Carithers of Meadville, died of blunt force trauma to the head and possibly a fractured skull, Adams County Coroner James Lee said.

Lee said at this time it is unknown who may have struck Carithers. Mayfield said Carithers sustained the injury in the melee as he was trying to contain the riot.

Sixteen other employees of ACCC were treated and released from hospitals, and a news release from the prison stated that three inmates were taken to hospitals for treatment. One of those inmates was returned to the prison Monday morning.

The prison remains on lockdown.

Mayfield said inmate injuries included a concussion, broken ribs and a stab wound. All of those injuries were the result of assaults by other prisoners, Mayfield said.

“One prisoner either fell off or was thrown off the roof of one of the housing units,” Mayfield said.

“There was a lot of confusion inside with the inmates.”

At one point, more than two dozen prison employees were trapped inside during the siege from within, and were freed in stages as law enforcement response cleared the various buildings at the prison. The final five were freed at approximately 11 p.m., Mayfield said.

Special Response Teams from the state police and the FBI worked to take back control of the buildings, and local law enforcement officers formed a perimeter around the outside of the prison.

“Our (training for such a situation) is on a smaller scale, so the state SRT handled the interior,” Mayfield said.

“I promised the community that nobody would get out, and nobody did.”

Nearly 400 law enforcement officers from adjourning jurisdictions were on standby during the riot, and Mayfield said the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office had 200 law enforcement officers waiting to see if they were needed.

The last Adams County deputy was pulled from the scene at 9:30 a.m. Monday, and Mayfield said the ACSO is returning to business as usual today.

A person purporting to be a prisoner inside the prison called a news station and told reporters there that the riot was because of poor treatment and lack of medical care, but Mayfield said that claim was untrue.

“They said it was about medical and food services, but it was not,” Mayfield said. “Once (the riot) started, they had to say something.”

The news release from the prison states that Corrections Corporation of America — the parent company of ACCC — will work closely with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to investigate the incident.

Mayfield said that because the riot happened in Adams County the Adams County Sheriff’s Office will have some jurisdiction in the matter.

The sheriff said the riot started because of gang tensions within the prison.

“It started as a fight, either internally between one group or between two groups,” Mayfield said. “Once it started, it kind of quickly spread as a mass hysteria that everyone took part in.”

While the prison houses more than 2,000 prisoners, Mayfield said a core group of approximately 300 were behind the riot.

When the fighting erupted, the prisoners quickly equipped themselves with handmade weapons.

“The prisoners were using mop handles, broom handles, anything they could tear apart from the housing units, anything they could pick up,” Mayfield said. “They were using trash can lids for shields.”