In a video apparently live-streamed on Facebook, a corrections officer knelt on the floor of a jail, an inmate in a black-and-white-striped uniform standing over him.
“It ain’t nothing against the C.O., man,” said another detainee, who was filming from in a cell. “We ain’t got no mirrors in here. The water don’t work, toilet backed up. This is what we dealing with.”
The scene unfolded Saturday at the Oklahoma County Detention Center after the guard was “overrun” by at least one inmate, officials said. It ended with police shooting and killing the suspected hostage-taker, who allegedly held a makeshift knife to the officer’s neck. Inmates also used the guard’s keys to open cell doors.
Hours after the standoff, the jail remained on lockdown, with a small group gathering at its gates to protest the conditions inside. Authorities said the officer was taken to a hospital but was expected to be OK.
“I’m just glad that the detention officer wasn’t more seriously hurt and we were able to get him out of there and protect him,” Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley said during a Saturday news conference.
Authorities have not publicly identified the officer taken hostage or the inmate killed.
With up to 2,700 inmates on a daily basis, the 268,000 square-foot Oklahoma County Detention Center is the largest in the state, according to the sheriff’s office. The facility has a troubled history: Complaints about its conditions have persisted for years, and it was put under federal oversight in 2009 after an investigation uncovered more than 60 civil rights violations, The Oklahoman reported.
Saturday’s unrest began just after 4 p.m. in a 10th floor, 37-person pod that houses those considered most difficult to manage, jail administrator Greg Williams said. At least one inmate overpowered the corrections officer as he was distributing medication, he said, and took his radio and keys.
Videos shared on social media captured part of the incident, showing others in the jail clamoring to be let out of their cells, yelling at guards on lower floors and posing in front of the camera in the corridor. The man filming complained that some of those incarcerated had not been allowed out of their cells for three or four days.
“We ain’t got no showers in two weeks,” he said. “Our power was just out two days. Ain’t got nothing to do with this C.O. He just so happens to be a product of the situation.”
Tactical officers from the Oklahoma City Police Department and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office went to the scene. Sheriff Tommie Johnson said that they tried to de-escalate the situation but that the inmate had the corrections officer “in a hostage position, with something held to his neck.”
Sheriff’s office spokesman Aaron Brilbeck described the item as “a makeshift knife.”
It was the Oklahoma City Police Department that opened fire; the officer or officers involved have not been named. Williams said the situation remained tense after the shooting and he did not know how long it took to get medical attention for the inmate.
“The inmates in the pod would not cooperate, would not lock down,” he said. “It was still kind of a hostile environment, so it was difficult to get in and take care of him.”
At some point, officers used gas to gain control of the jail, the sheriff said. Authorities said they were trying to determine how many inmates were involved in the incident, but they noted that it was confined to the one pod. They called in extra staffers to help manage the situation.
The guard who was taken hostage was hospitalized into Saturday night. Williams did not disclose his injuries, but he said he walked out of the jail “on his own accord” and was “going to be fine.”
As night fell Saturday, several protesters remained outside the jail, rattling its gates and decrying the shooting. Among them was the Rev. Sheri Dickerson, executive director of Black Lives Matter-Oklahoma City, who said in an interview Sunday that the conditions inside the jail are inhumane.
She said people incarcerated there, most of whom have not been convicted of a crime, have long complained about bed bugs, moldy food, plumbing issues and infrequent access to showers. This month, the power was shut off on back-to-back weekend days.
“It is an albatross of inhumanity,” Dickerson said. “People are treated worse than any animal.”
Asked about the inmates’ complaints, Williams said jail officials “manage those conditions continually.” An investigation into the incident is in its early stages, and he said officials will review policies and procedures, adding that he expects changes to be made.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Sunday criticized administration at the facility, telling The Oklahoman that the jail is the worst it’s ever been.
“It’s the incompetent administration of that jail. It’s the incompetence of the jail trust,” he said, according to the newspaper. “The jail trust and its administration of the Oklahoma County jail is an abject failure that has cost the lives of inmates, made the environment incredibly dangerous for law enforcement and other jail staff members.”