Weapons, phones, drugs found after Okla. prison fights
All 24 state and three private prisons remain locked down indefinitely following the weekend fights
By Ken Miller
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials said Wednesday that numerous weapons, cellphones and drugs have been found by investigators following a series of apparently coordinated fights at six state prisons that left one inmate dead, dozens injured and prisons statewide locked down.
"A lot of shanks ... broken broom handles, broken faucets, faucet heads that have a cord attached to them," according to department spokesman Matt Elliott. "The types of weapons inmates typically use and fight with."
Bobby Cleveland, director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, an association for prison employees, said the fights had "to be a coordinated effort," noting they included minimum security lock-ups.
Cleveland said inmates can use contraband cellphones to coordinate attacks among prisoners at other facilities.
Elliott said all 24 state and three private prisons remain locked down indefinitely following the weekend fights at prisons in Vinita, Hominy, Sayre, Fort Supply, Lawton and Stringtown.
Elliott said inmate Chad Burns, 27, was killed in fighting at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Oklahoma City.
Burns was serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted in 2016 in Tulsa County on weapons, assault and battery, robbery and burglary charges.
Elliott said 36 inmates and several prison staff were injured, and while four inmates remained hospitalized Wednesday, none of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening.
No prison staff was hospitalized.
Elliott said the fights were gang-related and racially motivated, but declined to identify the gangs involved.
"No, and I don't know that we will," Elliott said. "We don't want to spread that information and touch off more violence and add notoriety to those gangs. When you do that, you're building their street cred."
The total number of inmates involved in the fighting has not been determined, according to Elliott.
"We're still investigating as far as the numbers go," Elliott said. "It's going to be a lot of people involved," noting the 36 inmate injuries and one death.
During the ongoing lockdown, all inmates are kept in their cells where they are provided food, water, medicine and offered the opportunity to shower, the department said in a statement.
All visitation is canceled until further notice.
"This is in no way intended to penalize the thousands of state inmates who did not participate in this violence," interim DOC Director Scott Crow said in the statement. "As soon as we believe it is safe to return to normal operations, we will do so efficiently and safely."