Courts & Crime

South Carolina inmates tear gassed in prison fight

The 1,750-inmate maximum security prison at Lee Correctional Institution was on lockdown Saturday night after a fight broke out among some 60 prisoners in a common area in one of the prison dormitories.

Officers dropped cannisters of tear gas through an opening to the dormitory to quell the disturbance.

A rapid response team that entered the dormitory shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday after the tear gas had cleared found several inmates with minor injuries - "the kind you would expect from a fight," said Corrections spokesman Josh Gelinas.

Prisoners put up no resistance, he said.

The prison will remain on lockdown for the immediate future. Lockdown means all inmates are confined to their cells; food is brought to them.

The incident started about 4:30 p.m. when two officers were entering a wing of the Chesterfield Dormitory. That section houses about 120 inmates.

A fight broke out among some inmates, and the officers retreated, locking the door behind them.

"The officers quickly realized they were not going to be able to quell the disturbance," Gelinas said.

The fighting continued for about 20 minutes until around 5 p.m., when officers dropped the tear gas cannisters into the dormitory The gas, which stings the eyes and skin, quelled the disturbance in short order, said Gelinas.

Prisoners who needed medical attention received it, Gelinas said.

There were no hostages and no prison staff injured in the incident, he said.

Gelinas said prison officials don't know yet the cause of the fighting.

"We will be getting to that in the next couple of days," he said.