COLUMBIA, S.C. (NBC) — Seven prisoners were killed and 17 other inmates injured during hours of fighting inside of a maximum-security facility in South Carolina, state corrections officials said early Monday.
No law enforcement or prison staff were harmed in the series of altercations at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, which has a history of deadly violence and was once referred to as the “state’s most dangerous prison.”
The altercations began at 7:15 p.m. ET Sunday, and the prison wasn’t secured until almost eight hours later, just before 3 a.m., the South Carolina Department of Corrections tweeted.
NOTE: Officials provide an update after seven inmates were killed during hours of fighting inside of a maximum-security facility in South Carolina. App users can watch here.
Corrections officials did not immediately say what provoked the incident and why it took hours to stop the series of fights.
Most of the dead were stabbed or slashed with homemade knives during the chaos, while others were beaten, officials told The Associated Press. Authorities said all the dead were killed by their fellow prisoners.
Lee County Fire and Rescue tweeted early Monday that it and several other EMS crews responded to a “mass casualty” situation.
The inmates who died were later identified as Raymond Scott, 28; Michael Milledge, 44; Damonte Rivera, 24; Eddie Gaskins, 32; Joshua Jenkins, 33; Corey Scott, 38; and Cornelius McClary, 33.
Lee Correctional, about 40 miles east of Columbia, houses about 1,500 inmates, some of South Carolina’s most violent and longest-serving offenders. Two officers were stabbed in a 2015 fight. One inmate killed another in February.
A guard was also overpowered by several inmates last month at Lee Correctional, allowing them to take control of a building for more than an hour.
In another situation in 2012, an officer was attacked while escorting a nurse in one of the buildings, leading to a six-hour standoff. Inmates reportedly used smuggled cellphones to call 911 with their demands, but were stopped after more than 100 officers and agents used tear gas to get inside.
Inmate killings throughout South Carolina are up, state data shows.
The number of inmates killed in prison by other inmates rose to 12 in 2017 from three in 2015. Two of the deaths last year occurred at Lee Correctional, according to The State.
Bryan Stirling, the state Department of Corrections director, has said that chronic understaffing has meant fewer employees are available to oversee inmates. Prisoners are also unwilling to snitch about impending violence.
“It’s hard to investigate these matters in prison because folks just aren’t going to tell,” Stirling told The State in January. “That’s just the prison culture. You see something, you don’t say anything.”