By DOUG RUSSELL
The cells of the Pittsburg County Jail were empty this morning as trustees, county employees and others worked to clean up and repair damage caused when inmates rioted Tuesday evening.
Several inmates required some medical treatment following the riot, Pittsburg County Undersheriff Richard Sexton said, but only one was hospitalized — and that was for a pre-existing medical condition.
“In my opinion it wasn’t directly related to what was going on at the jail,” Sexton said.
Several inmates suffered bruises and a few had lacerations suffered in the riot, Sexton said, adding no law enforcement officers were injured.
All of the inmates from the jail have been removed to an undisclosed location, where they are being guarded by sheriff’s deputies, McAlester police officers, Department of Corrections personnel and other county employees.
During the riot, which lasted until the last inmate was removed at about midnight, inmates damaged cells, set books and other papers on fire and attempted to escape before barricading themselves inside. Locks on several doors were broken or otherwise damaged, as were locks to two doors that led to the former exercise yard of the jail.
“They were able to defeat both of those doors,” Sexton said. “There was an inner door and an outer door and they were able to defeat both of them, but I’d backed a patrol unit up to the door and they couldn’t get the door open to get out.”
One cell door was damaged so badly that a rescue tool had to be used to open it.
Officers from the McAlester and Krebs police departments, as well as the sheriff’s department and the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Corrections Emergency Response Team, responded to the riot, Sexton said. In addition, McAlester firefighters and ambulances were on hand to assist, as was ParaMed Ambulance Service.
The CERT team has equipment and training in how to get an unwilling prisoner out of a cell.
The incident began between 2 and 3 Tuesday afternoon, Sexton said, when “three or four” inmates got into a fight.
The reason for the fight is unclear, he said, since inmates often get into altercations and then refuse to tell jail employees what happened or who was involved.
After stopping the fight, sheriff’s department employees began moving inmates to different cells and “From that point the disturbance went on and basically became a riot,” Sexton said. “They basically started trying to tell sheriff’s department personnel what they were going to do and what they weren’t going to do. They got more and more inmates incited.”
Twelve inmates in a large cell called the trustee cell were able to break a hasp on the cell door and get out. Those inmates started grabbing anything they could find and attempting to free other inmates.
Trustees were not in the trustee cell, Sexton said. Due to the jail’s crowded conditions, trustees are generally kept in another part of the jail. Trustees were not involved in the riot, he added.
At one point, an estimated 50 inmates were free in the run leading from one cell to another, but they were unable to get to the kitchen, booking area or the administrative offices of the jail.
The last rioters were subdued and removed from the jail at about midnight, Sexton said, adding that although officials plan to investigate the riot and its causes, their first priority is getting the jail back into operation.
“That’s the first thing we have to worry about — the protection of the public and law enforcement,” he said. “We’ll be investigating, but it will be a while before that’s done.
“The safety of the public comes first.”
At the time of the riot, 98 inmates “not counting trustees” were being held in the jail, which was built to house 65, Sexton said.
“In my 18 1/2 years with the sheriff’s department, I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Crime | Several inmates receive injuries during riot at overcrowded county jail
By DOUG RUSSELL
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