Inmates at a crowded state prison held three guards hostage Saturday following a fiery uprising that left one dormitory gutted and two others damaged, officials said. One guard and one inmate were injured.
Eight guards were grabbed by 10 prisoners when the disturbance began, but five hostages were released unharmed Saturday and the others were reported in good condition, said officials at the medium-security Mack Alford Correctional Center.The inmates, believed to be armed with crude knives, threatened to kill their hostages if authorities attempted a rescue, said Jerry Massie, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.
"One inmate is keeping it going," said prison spokeswoman Anita Trammell. "I think the inmates are tired. We have one leader. I think if it wasn't for the leader, things would have been closed up."
The uprising began late Friday after some inmates accused others of theft and threatened retaliation, authorities said. A group of the inmates was being prepared for transfer to a maximum-security prison when they seized hostages.
"They released the (fifth) hostage in return for getting to talk to two specific negotiators," said Massie. He would not identify the negotiators.
Officials said the inmates had "a short list" of specific demands, but refused to disclose what they were.
"I think their primary concern is for their safety and their well-being," Massie said. "It's just real non-specific. It's not like a list of `We want better food or better water.' "
"We're fine. They're feeding us. They're taking care of us," one hostage was quoted as saying when inmates permitted him to make a telephone call.
The 33-year-old red-brick prison was surrounded by Oklahoma Highway Patrol tactical teams in camouflage clothing, rifle-toting corrections department officers and firetrucks that were used to battle blazes in three buildings.
Officers carrying teargas launchers donned bullet-proof vests in a parking lot and huddled around blueprints of the prison. But officials
wouldn't say if that activity signaled any impending action.
"That's what you call contingency planning," said patrol spokesman Lt. Stewart Meyer.
A spokesman said Gov. Henry Bellmon had no plans to call in the National Guard to assist the law officers already on hand.
The inmates started a fire that destroyed the east dormitory at the prison, then moved to another dormitory with their hostages, Massie said.
Smoke was still rising from the roof of the torched dormitory Saturday; fires in two other dormitories were doused.
Authorities sealed off a section of the prison that held 82 inmates.
"Ten of the 82 are participating in the hostage situation . . . the others just got caught inside," said Trammell. Thirty to 35 of the uninvolved inmates locked themselves in their cells, she said.
Trammell said one guard was treated after apparently being hit on the hand with a rock, and one prisoner suffered a minor stab wound to the shoulder.
Officers were preparing to transfer five inmates to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, about 40 miles away, when the disturbance began. The five had reportedly threatened other inmates who allegedly had stolen from them.
"Apparently, during that period of time, an officer was taken hostage," Massie said. Other officers then were seized.
More than 500 inmates were evacuated from the prison's dormitories and held in a yard behind a fence topped with razor wire. Many were being transferred to other facilities throughout the state.
Mack Alford, with 652 inmates, has the sixth-largest prison population in Oklahoma but has an operational capacity of 492, Massie said. The prison opened in 1955, he said.