Deadly SC prison riot result of territory fights, cell phones, officials say

BISHOPVILLE, SC (WSPA) – The S.C. Department of Corrections said seven inmates were killed and 17 required medical care after rioting at Lee Correctional Institution.
Department of Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Taillon said in an email that several fights broke out in three housing units around 7:15 p.m. Sunday. Taillon said the prison was secured at 2:55 a.m. Monday. 

During a news conference Monday afternoon, South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Brian Stirling gave a timeline of the events that unfolded at the maximum security prison located in Bishopville, S.C.

“Last night about 7:15 p.m. a fight broke out at Lee Correctional in one dorm,” Stirling said. “About an hour and 15 minutes later, another fight broke out in two other dorms at Lee Correctional.”

Stirling said response teams and others were notified about the fights at the facility and began responding to the prison, including SLED.

“At 11:30 p.m. we entered the first dorm at Lee to take that dorm back. We had enough people there to enter safely and we took that dorm back,” Stirling said. “At 12:30 we went and entered the second dorm at Lee, and safely took that dorm back.”

According to Stirling, at 2 a.m., officers entered the last dorm at Lee and started conducting roll call counts.

He confirmed that 7 people died in the incident and 17 people were injured. They were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Taillon said no correctional officers were injured. 

Officials tell the Associated Press that most of the inmates were slashed or stabbed in the rioting. 

“I know a lot of people are going to wonder what happened,” Stirling said. “What we believe from the initial investigation is that this was all about territory. This is about contraband. This is about cell phones.”

“You’ve heard us talk about these over and over again. These folks are fighting over real money and real territory while they’re incarcerated. That’s why we’ve been leading the effort in South Carolina to ask the FCC to allow us to block this signal,” Stirling said. “We need the FCC to allow us to block the signal or the cell phone company to come to us with the technology to allow us to control these signals.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and SLED Chief Mark Keel also spoke at the news conference on Monday.

The following inmates were killed:

We reported earlier that an inmate from Spartanburg was killed at the prison two months ago.

Prison officials said another inmate killed Robert Odell Brown in an altercation on Feb. 22.

Brown was serving a 45-year sentence for shooting a Spartanburg County sheriff’s deputy in 2011.

One month after Brown’s killing, prisoners held an officer and gained control of a dormitory at the prison.

The officer was held for about an hour and 25 minutes.

As of Monday, there are 1,583 prisoners incarcerated at Lee Correctional Institution. 

Officials are expected to provide an update at 1:30 p.m. Monday. 

The Department of Corrections and S.C. Law Enforcement Division are investigating.

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