LEE COUNTY, S.C. — Seven inmates were killed and 17 others were injured after a riot broke out at a South Carolina prison over what officials say appeared to be a fight over territory.
The deadly incident at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, about 60 miles east of Columbia, erupted around 7:15 p.m. Sunday and didn't end until the middle of the night, officials said.
Officials said they believe this was a gang-related dispute over territory, contraband and cellphones, explaining that phones allow inmates to fight over real money and real territory while behind bars.
The fight first broke out in one dorm at 7:15 p.m. and then spread to two other dorms at about 8:30 p.m., officials said.
At 11:30 p.m. there was enough manpower to safely enter the first dorm and take it back, officials said, and at 12:30 a.m. they entered the second dorm and safely took that back. At 2 a.m., officials entered the last dorm.
About 250 inmates are in each dorm and officials explained it appears the staff members did what they are trained to do -– which is if they cannot stop the situation, back out and call for help until there are enough workers present to take the dorm back with force.
The slain inmates were identified as: Raymond Angelo Scott; Michael Milledge; Damonte Marquez Rivera; Eddie Casey Jay Gaskins; Joshua Svwin Jenkins; Corey Scott; and Cornelius Quantral McClary.
Most of the killed inmates were attacked with homemade knives, Lee County Coroner Larry Logan told The Associated Press. The others appeared to have been beaten, he said.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections said all staff and responding law enforcement officers were safe and accounted for.
Officials are now investigating how these deaths occurred.
The maximum-security facility in Bishopville 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.
The Lee County Fire Department said that they assisted with the "mass casualty incident."
Cox Media Group