(Reuters) - Inmates seized control of a privately owned prison in Mississippi on Sunday after riots broke out, and a guard was killed in the chaos in the low security facility, authorities said.
Adams County Coroner James Lee said the 23-year-old guard died of blunt trauma to the head during the riot at the Adams County Correctional Center, a privately owned prison that houses mostly illegal immigrants for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
“This is an ongoing riot that still has not been rectified because the prisoners are in still in charge of the prison,” Lee said, speaking at around 9 p.m. local time.
The disturbance in the 2,567-bed prison began on Sunday afternoon inside the facility in Natchez, Mississippi, the Corrections Corporation of America, which owns the prison, said in a statement.
Photographs of the scene showed white smoke lingering above the prison yard. The Natchez Democrat newspaper said a SWAT team was stationed outside the prison and, at one point, prisoners lit a fire.
The paper quoted Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield as saying eight prison employees remained in the prison and authorities were working to get them out.
“I personally saw the fire start outside the prison but within the fences. ... It looked like they launched tear gas,” local resident Sessions Vestal, who lives about a mile down the road from the prison, told Reuters.
Five prison employees and an inmate were injured and sent to a hospital outside the facility. Most of the prison’s inmates are illegal immigrants from Mexico. Many were arrested on drug-related charges and awaiting deportation.
The company that owns the prison deployed several special response teams - both from that facility and from others it owns - to quell the riot while state and local law enforcement agencies secured the outside perimeter, the statement said.
“The disturbance is contained within the secure perimeter of the facility, with no threat to public safety,” it added.
There was no immediate word on what sparked the riot.
Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas and Emily Le Coz in Tupelo, Miss.; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Stacey Joyce