By: DWAYNE MCLEMORE, TEDDY KULMALA AND EMILY BOHATCH of The State
Seven inmates were killed during fights that lasted more than seven hours at a South Carolina prison Sunday night and into Monday morning, according to officials.
At least six emergency agencies responded to the “mass casualty incident” at Lee Correctional Institution in Lee County that resulted in the seven inmate deaths and 17 other inmates requiring medical attention, the S.C. Department of Corrections announced early Monday morning.
The fight, which spanned three dorms, was likely gang related, and spawned from a disagreement over territory, contraband and cellphones, SC Department of Corrections Director Brian Stirling said.
“These folks are fighting over real money and real territory while they’re incarcerated,” Stirling said.
Though most of the autopsies have yet to be performed, it appears that many of the prisoners died from stabbing or slashing wounds from “shanks,” Lee County Coroner Larry Logan said. The official cause of death will not be determined until after the autopsies.
Videos that reportedly were taken by inmates inside the prison and shared to social media show the grisly scene after the riot.
One video, which was shot from what looks like a catwalk on the upper level of a cellblock, shows towels or clothing items on the floor and a long trail of what appears to be smeared blood leading to a larger puddle of blood near a wall. Another video shows a bloody man lying on his side against a wall, not moving.
The seven victims were identified Monday morning. Logan said coroner’s offices from across the state reached out to him and offered to assist on the numerous autopsies.
An inmate told The Associated Press that bodies at the prison were “literally stacked on top of each other” and that hours after the violence started, no correctional officers or medical personnel attended to the dead or dying.