Shootout in Tallahassee Prison (Breaking) (Video)

A shootout in a Tallahassee, Florida federal prison has left one federal agent dead and another wounded, CNN reports.

Three people were shot, two fatally, at a Tallahassee, Florida, federal prison Wednesday as federal agents were serving an indictment on six corrections officers, authorities said. One of those being arrested opened fire, said Jeff Westcott, spokesman for the FBI’s Jacksonville bureau. Federal agents returned fire, killing the suspect, Westcott said. An agent with the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General died in the shootout, he said. A Bureau of Prisons official was wounded.

More from AP:

Tallahassee Prison Shooting Federal Prison in Tallahassee, Fla., to investigate an alledged shooting inside the prison, Wednesday, June 21, 2006. The FBI said three prison employees were shot inside a federal detention center Wednesday morning and the shooter was in custody, police said. Two are reported to have died. (AP Photo/Phil Coale) A guard at a federal detention center opened fire as investigators came to arrest six corrections officers Wednesday, starting a gunfight that killed two workers and injured another, the FBI said.

FBI agents and Justice Department investigators were at the center to serve arrest warrants when one of the six guards shot a federal correctional institution officer, said FBI spokesman John Girgenti. Girgenti said an officer fired back. He declined to comment on whether the shooter was among the victims. Tallahassee police said earlier that the shooter was in custody.

The condition of the survivor and identities of the victims were not immediately released. “The community is safe. The institution is in lockdown status,” federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Carla Wilson said.

More as the story develops.

What is not clear at this juncture, in addition to the identity of the second fatality (presumably an inmate rather than an agent, given that the death of one agent and wounding of another have been reported), is why the FBI decided to storm the building to arrest armed guards rather than, say, having them report to the warden’s office or arresting them at their homes.

UPDATE: Details are still sketchy several hours later. CNN:

Three people were shot, two fatally, at a Tallahassee, Florida, federal detention center Wednesday as federal agents went to arrest six corrections officers, authorities said. The six guards were being arrested in an investigation into allegations that guards were trading drugs for sex with female inmates.

One of those being arrested opened fire about 7:45 a.m., said Jeff Westcott, spokesman for the FBI’s Jacksonville bureau. Federal agents returned fire, killing the suspect, Westcott said. An agent with the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General died in the shootout, he said. A Bureau of Prisons official was wounded.

[…]

A federal grand jury indictment names guards Alfred Barnes, Gregory Dixon, Ralph Hill, Vincent Johnson, Alan Moore and E. Lavon Spence. They face conspiracy charges for allegedly trading drugs, money and other prison contraband for sex with inmates. The federal indictment also details alleged attempts to cover up the sexual encounters, including paying bribes and threatening to transfer potential informers to prisons farther from their families.

The link contains a javascript video with the teaser “Watch what may have prompted the gunfight — 1:48.” I’m unable to load it owing to the vagaries of my office network.

The updated AP story (note: The links to these remain constant but the content varies as the stories are updated) has this bit of explanation:

When FBI agents and Justice Department investigators arrived at the center Wednesday morning to arrest the six men, one of the indicted guards shot a federal correctional institution officer, said FBI spokesman John Girgenti. He said the officers fired back.

The agents were not expecting the prison guards to be armed, the law enforcement official told the AP, though he could not immediately explain why.

The official said the guard fired with a personal weapon, wounding the Bureau of Prisons employee who was assisting with the arrest. Agents from the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office returned fire, killing the guard, the official said, adding that a Justice Department agent was killed in the exchange. It wasn’t immediately clear who fired that fatal shot.

Very odd. It’s not at all clear from the print accounts (I’ve seen no television coverage) what exactly went down. One would presume prison guards are armed, ordinarily, so it may well be that they somehow got these men into a secure location and had them turn in their weapons before the arrest attempt. If that’s the case, though, one wonders why they weren’t searched for hidden weapons.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Where do you get
    “FBI decided to storm the building to arrest armed guards rather than, say, having them report to the wardenâ??s office or arresting them at their homes”

    The AP report says that the local police only swarmed after getting a 911 call about the shooting. I agree that trying to arrest a known armed person is dangerous, but I don’t see any references to the FBI swarming. Given they were arresting 6 individuals, it would make sense that there were several FBI agents and Justice department investigators, but I haven’t seen anything that says they “stormed the building”.

    From the limited data in the press accounts, I suspect it was the opposite. They called the guys into the warden’s office, told them they were going to serve the indictment papers and arrest them. The guards were probably told to turn in their badge and gun when one of them decided to shoot his way out (or there was an accident which escalated or whatever).

    Part of a bloggers credibility is to acknowledge if they jumped the shark. If I missed the reference, I apologize and would appreciate a clearer pointer to the reference. If you over stated the situation based on the limited information, you may want to consider an update.

  2. One other point from La Shawn Barber’s blog that might explain why a guard would decide to pull a gun. According to her site, the inmates were girls between the ages of 13 and 15. This isn’t “my wife is going to kill me when she finds out”, but child molestation that would likely bring long sentences.

    Now we have indictment, but no trial yet, so all are presumed innocent. But would the logic of the left on Iraq apply her and say that this prison scandal indicts the entire prison system so we should pull all the guards from the prison and position them “over the horizon”? Just asking? I mean we don’t have any definite plan to end our prison system, so just staying the course shouldn’t be an option should it?

  3. McGehee says:

    One would presume prison guards are armed, ordinarily…

    Actually, prison guards who are routinely in close contact with inmates are, I believe, not supposed to carry firearms due to the risk involved. From what I can remember of what I’ve read about the subject, prison guards with guns tend to be those posted out of reach of the inmates, such as on the walls or in towers.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Kev: Come to think of it, I think that’s right.

  5. One Man Crime Spree says:

    I really am not surprised with the FCI Tallahassee incident. I am curious when they will discover the other officials (like unit managers and case workers) at other institutions in Florida, and how they accept bribes for more half-way house and smuggle food, favors, jewelry etc into the facility for inmates. The BOP has long since been corrupt at all levels of it’s administration but only time will expose all of it, hopefully.

  6. Elaine says:

    Of course Lt. Hill was not supposed to be armed, that is why agents decided to make the arrests there. The six were not told to “report to the warden’s office” as said office is located in the women’s FCI and the shooting took place at the men’s FDC.

  7. passionblck says:

    This is just too sad.