A spokesman for South Carolina prisons says seven inmates are dead and 17 others required outside medical attention after nearly eight hours of fighting inside Lee Correctional Institute last night.
Jeff Taillon announced the grim outcome after State Law Enforcement Division agents helped secure the maximum-security facility in Bishopville (40 miles east of Columbia) around 3 a.m. Monday.
Taillon said no officers were wounded after multiple inmate fights broke out at 7:15 p.m. Sunday.
Lee County Fire/Rescue said ambulances from at least seven jurisdictions arrived to tend to the wounded. The local coroner’s office also responded.
Lee Correctional houses about 1,500 inmates, some of South Carolina’s most violent and longest-serving offenders.
County Coroner Larry Logan says it appears many of the seven inmates killed died of stabbing and slashing wounds. He finished identifying all the dead this morning and is working to notify relatives.
Authorities say it took eight hours to quell the riots and secure the prison. No employees were hurt in the multiple melees.
A prisoner who witnessed the rioting 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 didn’t say what started the riot but said most of the inmates there 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 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 [behinds].”