Department of Corrections investigating after Kershaw correctional officer stabbed, held hostage by inmate

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Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 10:45 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 10:49 PM EDT
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LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) – An officer at Kershaw Correctional Institution has been stabbed four times, including once in the head, after being held hostage by an inmate at the prison, officials say.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) is investigating the incident, which occurred around 7 P.M. on Monday night.

SCDC Director Bryan Stirling met with the officer last night at MUSC Health Lancaster Medical Center, and though he was bloodied from the attack, Stirling said he was in good spirits. He’s since been released from the hospital.

Stirling said this attack could have been much worse.

“Where he was stabbed in his jaw right here, a couple of inches lower and we’re probably talking about a completely different result,” Stirling said.

According to agency officials, the incident started when the officer opened a cell door and was attacked by an inmate with a shank.

The weapon bent after the first strike and did not do as much damage as it could have.

During the struggle, the officer lost his radio. The attacker’s cellmate handed the officer his radio back so that he could call for help.

“If that officer was not able to communicate with anybody outside of that dorm, we may not have known for awhile what was happening,” Stirling said. “We do have cameras in there, but we may not have known for awhile that that officer was being attacked, and that attack could’ve continued. So that cellmate handing him the radio allowed him to alert fellow officers, our response team to come in and help him and that’s what they did.”

Additionally, the inmate used pepper spray on himself and others in the dorm. SCDC is investigating whether the inmate was under the influence of any drugs.

The inmate accused of committing these crimes is also accused of stealing the officer’s keys.

Once he had stolen the keys, SCDC officials say the inmate unlocked nearly every other cell door in the  that dorm of the prison. No other inmates were involved in the incident, officials said.

“And the inmate population in that dorm did the right thing and did not participate,” Stirling said. “They didn’t come out of their cells, they stayed in their cells, they didn’t want any part of this. With nobody else coming out of their cells at the time, we were able to go in and get that officer, retrieve that officer and get him the medical attention he needed.”

The officer was held against his will for about six minutes until Lancaster EMS responded and retrieved him.

“We’re very lucky that that officer is so tough and was able to fight back, we’re lucky for the first responders and we’re thankful that the inmate population acted the way they’re supposed to,” Stirling said.

With the $92 million investment the agency is getting from lawmakers, it will allow all state correctional institutions to upgrade their cell locking mechanisms to be automatic – which could’ve given this officer more time to react, Sterling said.

RELATED | SC prisons to undergo “unprecedented” upgrades after lawmakers approve $92M investment

“So that officer would’ve been able to stand back 15 feet or so and say ‘open this cell,’ the cell would have opened, and if that inmate would have come at him, he would have been able to protect himself better” he explained.

The inmate who assaulted this officer was transported to Perry Correctional Institution in Pelzer, where he will be held in solitary restrictive housing awaiting charges. Stirling says he was scheduled to be released in 2027, but no longer expects that to be the case.

The SCDC Office of Investigations and Intelligence is investigating the incident and will work with the Solicitor’s Office to bring charges against this inmate.

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