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April 21, 2008 -- Denver Post (CO)

2 Killed, 5 Hurt In USP Florence Prison Brawl

Legislator: Tower Guards Fired Every Round During Prison Riot

By Howard Pankratz, Denver Post

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The lawmaker who represents Florence said guards in three towers at the maximum security prison fired every round of lethal and non-lethal ammunition at their disposal Sunday to quell the melee that erupted when a white supremacist prison gang taunted African-American inmates on Hitler's birthday.

Two inmates who died were shot by guards, said state Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West,.

McFadyen said she had been told by corrections officers that the riot at the United States Penitentiary in Florence erupted about 12:30 p.m. Sunday when the white supremacists began yelling slurs towards African-Americans and a fight ensued.

The two inmates who were killed died after refusing to follow repeated orders from correctional officers and were killed only as a last resort, said McFadyen.

McFadyen said she did not know what the two inmates who died were doing at the time and what orders they refused to obey.

McFadyen said that the officers repeatedly fired what are called "no-man" rounds -- which are warning shots fired into the yard away from human targets.

The intent is to scare and warn, not to hit a target, said McFadyen.

She added that many of the corrections guards at the U.S. Penitentiary are highly trained former military officers.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver, said that the FBI's Denver-based "evidence response team," is currently going through the recreation yard where the riot erupted collecting evidence.

He said the FBI is working with Bureau of Prisons investigators to determine what happened.

McFadyen said she has not received official confirmation of what happened from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons in Washington did not return a call.

The spokesperson for the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Leann LaRiva, said the prison would release additional information later today.

In a statement released last night, LaRiva said the penitentiary was in lockdown due to an "inmate disturbance which occurred in the recreation yard."

LaRiva said two inmates were pronounced dead and their names were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

She said five inmates were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Both LaRiva and McFadyen said no correctional officers were killed.

"The institution is secure and at no time was there a threat to the community," said LaRiva.

McFadyen said that at the height of the riot the total federal prison campus was on lockdown with officers from the other three prisons on the four-prison campus being called into quell the riot.

The four prisons at the Florence facility include the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, or "Supermax"; the U.S. Penitentiary, where the riot occurred; the medium security Federal Correctional Institution and a minimum security camp.

McFadyen has repeatedly warned that the penitentiary, where the riot occurred, was about to blow.

Early last year, Ken Shatto, the guard union leader and McFadyen, held a news conference warning of the danger.

Shatto said that in February 2007, tower guards were forced to fire lethal and nonlethal rounds to stop inmates from killing one another.

"Today, I'm trying to head off full-blown riots," Shatto said then. "That's where I think we are headed."

McFadyen said today that although Supermax receives more publicity, the penitentiary is extremely dangerous because of the "domestic gangs" there.

She said the gangs, such as the white supremacist gang, are "very organized" and many of their members are "doing life without any opportunity for parole."

She said corrections officials told her they spent most of Sunday afternoon cleaning up the recreation yard after the riot.

Reach Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939 or

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