A group assault on two corrections officers at the Varner Unit in September began with an inmate complaining that his homemade hoodie was confiscated, according to police reports first released Thursday.
And in a second incident that same day, at another prison, an officer was beaten so severely that responding medical personnel at first could not feel his pulse.
The details of both attacks, on Sept. 28, were revealed in reports by the Arkansas State Police included in charges filed Thursday against five inmates. When the attacks happened, the agency released few details and didn't name the inmates involved.
On Thursday, the prosecuting attorney's office in Pine Bluff charged inmates Robert Rhodes, Kirk Traylor, Alfred Maxey and Jeremy Williams with first-degree and second-degree battery in the attack at the Varner Unit. Traylor and Williams were additionally charged with possession of a weapon by an inmate.
Gary Gould, a former inmate at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker, was charged with first-degree battery in the attack on an officer at that unit.
All five inmates are now housed in single cells at the Varner Supermax Unit, according to prisons spokesman Solomon Graves.
According to a state police report included with the charges at Varner, Traylor approached an officer in a hallway between two barracks and confronted the officer about taking the inmate's hoodie. The inmate then began to stab the officer with a homemade weapon, the police report said.
Maxey and Williams then forced their way into the hallway and joined in the attack, the report said. Rhodes, who was already in the hallway, joined, too.
A second officer arrived to help and was stabbed in the back of his head and neck before more officers rushed in and stopped the attack, according to the report. The inmates then fled into the barracks and "barricaded the door."
At the time, the department said nonlethal force was used to remove the inmates from the barracks.
According to online prison records, each of the inmates except for Williams is serving time for murder. Williams is in for battery, theft, residential burglary and illegal possession of a firearm.
At the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker on Sept. 28, an officer was sitting on a table in the common area of one of the barracks writing a disciplinary report on Gould, when Gould approached from the stairs and began to strike the officer in the face with his fists, police said.
After other officers pulled Gould off, the injured officer was unresponsive, and his airway had to be cleared before his pulse returned. He was taken to the hospital by Med-Flight, according to the police report.
Gould is serving a sentence for theft and sex crimes, according to his prison records.
Each first-degree battery charge carries the possibility of an additional five to 20 years in state prison. The charges of second-degree battery and weapons possession carry up to six years in prison.
Only Rhodes and Gould were eligible for parole at the time of the attacks, according to prison records.
Correction Department Director Wendy Kelley, in response to the announcement of charges, issued a statement: "We are appreciative of the support we received from the Arkansas State Police and local Prosecuting Attorney, and of their hard work, during the investigative phase. Achieving successful prosecutions is an essential tool in combating incidents of violence within our facilities. We will continue to support and cooperate with the prosecution of these cases as they proceed through the trial phase."
In a recent interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Kelley said some recent violent incidents had occurred because correctional officers failed to follow policy.
Overall, since the summer, at least five guards and eight inmates have been hospitalized in instances of violence. One inmate, Jonathan Demoret, died in August after a fight the month before. Across the state's prison system this year, staff members have seen an average of 64 incidents a month of battery or threats of violence, according to the department.
In the earlier interview, Kelley declined to specify which staffing errors had led to which incidents and declined to elaborate on the record about what had occurred in each instance.
Metro on 12/15/2017
Print Headline: 5 inmates charged in 2 attacks; Police reports detail day 2 prison guards stabbed, 1 beaten