Meridian Star

Local News

August 27, 2013

Inmates to be charged in jail disturbance

MERIDIAN — Lauderdale County Sheriff Department officials said as many as six inmates who investigators believe were behind a massive disturbance at the jail Saturday night are facing more charges.

    "We have multiple individuals who are going to be charged but as of this afternoon (Monday) we still are trying to get all the charges together," said Ward Calhoun, chief deputy for the LCSD. "I expect the charges to be filed Tuesday morning."

    At about 9:40 p.m. Saturday, law enforcement officers and emergency personnel were called to the Lauderdale County Adult Detention Facility in downtown Meridian to a report of a riot. The jail was surrounded by officers of the Meridian Police Department, Marion Police Department, deputies of the LCSD, and troopers from the Mississippi Highway Patrol. The LCSD SWAT team was called in to quell the incident.

    "This was not planned nor did all the inmates in the building this occurred take part in the incident," Calhoun said. "This was an incident that happened at the spur of the moment."

    Calhoun said a tussle between a correctional officer and an inmate resulted in that inmate getting the keys to many of the pods of C Building. Sheriff Billy Sollie said although the inmates could open doors to the pods that hold up to 30 inmates, none of the inmates could get out of C Building.

    "The doors leading in and out of the building are under the control of correctional officers in the C Building guard tower," Sollie said. "That area is always locked down so that nobody can gain access."

    Calhoun said members of the LCSD SWAT team were assembled and an hour after the first calls of the disturbance were reported the SWAT team entered the building.

    "We didn't have any trouble with anyone," Calhoun said. "All of the inmates were cooperative and the vast majority of them, although their cell doors were unlocked, chose to stay in their cells and not get involved."

    A few inmates used clothes and toilet tissue to start several small fires, Calhoun said. Those were quickly extinguished and no real damage to the jail was noted.

    Calhoun said no one, inmates nor correctional officers, was injured during the incident.

    Sollie said investigators have been reviewing video from the surveillance tapes to determine who started the disturbance. He said the charges stem from what the investigators were able to glean from those tapes.

    As to the motive behind the disturbance, Sollie said it may have been as simple as one inmate seeing an opportunity to start a disturbance but he has maintained for weeks now the overcrowding problem at the jail is getting worse.

    "You have violent criminals crammed into parts of the jail," Sollie said. "We have 306 inmates listed and our capacity is 290. Because of gang affiliation and other considerations, we can't just throw all these people in the same pod together. We have to keep many of them separated and that can cause problems within itself."

    No disciplinary action is expected be taken against any of the correctional officers in the pod at the time the incident occurred.

    "We use these incidents to go over our established plans and to see if anything was done wrong and what was done right," Calhoun said. "We did a great deal right, in this instance. This could have gotten really out of hand but the measures we have in place and the plan did work. We were able to contain the problem and then get things back to normal quickly."

    Sollie said about 90 inmates were exposed to the incident although only a fraction of those inmates actually took part. He said C Building has eight pods and those pods hold a majority of the violent crime inmates at the jail.

    "You have armed robbers, rapists, aggravated assault suspects, kidnappers, and felony domestic violence suspects held in that area," Sollie said.

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