2 injured, 2 fires set during 4-hour riot at Goldsboro prison

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) - Numerous agencies responded to a riot Sunday at the Neuse Correctional Institute in Goldsboro.

Two people - an inmate and prison staff member - were hurt during what officials are calling a "disturbance" that broke out around 4:30 p.m. at the minimum security prison. Two City of Goldsboro Police Department vehicles were also damaged.

During the more-than-4-hour incident, at least two fires were started by inmates at the prison which houses 788 prisoners, Pamela Walker, communications director for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, told CBS North Carolina.

According to Walker, the fires were started inside the prison's diagnostic building and a storage shed that held supplies. The shed was destroyed. Inmates also broke windows and damaged four dorms.

Photos from the News-Argus in Goldsboro showed fire and smoke at the prison, which the newspaper reported was on lockdown.

The Twitter account for the photographers for the newspaper reported that "Whistles, shouts can be heard from the compound as police and sheriffs deputies continue to pour in."

"We actually called it a disturbance, I wouldn't call it a riot," Walker said.

In incident reports by the Goldsboro Police Department obtained by CBS North Carolina, the "disturbance" was called a "riot."

Officials said that they did not call the incident a riot because inmates did not have complete control of the prison.

A member of the prison staff was injured while responding to the riot.

According to an incident report, 34-year-old Michael Collins, who worked at the prison, suffered minor injuries after he was hit "in the face two or three times with a closed fist." Collins was attempting to handcuff a suspect he was interviewing. Collins was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital for treatment.

The inmate who was injured reported that he had been assaulted by three other inmates before a corrections officer walked in and the assault stopped. The report states that the inmate was taken "to the bathroom and then to the correction officer" by other inmates.

The inmate, identified as 25-year-old Tristan Phillips, was also taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital for treatment. The report stated that he suffered "other major" injuries.

Officials said he was assaulted by three other inmates.

Both assaults are reported to have occurred just after 5 p.m.

Around 6:30 p.m., two Goldsboro Police Department vehicles were damaged.

According to the incident report, the vehicles were damaged "while [officers were] responding to the riot occurring at Neuse Correctional Institute." The two cars were hit by bottles and rocks being thrown over the prison fence by inmates, the report states. The damage totaled approximately $1,000.

By around 9 p.m., all inmates were back in locked areas and the scene was under control, Walker said.

"The facility will remain on lockdown until further notice," Walker said in an email.

On Monday, officials were trying to figure out why the prisoners rioted.

State Prison Director George Solomon says overcrowding should not have been a reason for the disturbance.

But, they are investigating if conditions after recent flooding may have been. During recent flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the prison was evacuated.

"We do not know at this time whether it's tied to the recent evacuation and recent return of those inmates to the facility," Solomon said.

As for the inmates who started the disturbance and two fires, Solomon says they have video evidence and eyewitness testimony to weed them out and they will be facing consequences.

"They could be facing our disciplinary procedures, a possible demotion. They could be facing restrictive housing. They could be facing classification reductions, as well as additional criminal charges from outside," Solomon said.

Due to damage inside some of the sections at the facility, approximately 500 inmates were transferred to other prisons. Around 288 remain at Neuse Correctional.

Solomon said the prison's layout made the response to the incident last longer.

"These are open dormitories, they're not cell blocks, they're not individual cells. So to contain the situation we try to do it as peacefully and as quietly as possible. So we try to determine who is involved," Solomon said. "We try to video that or record that as best we can, and then we try to move into the phase of where are we going from there to try and separate those that are involved from those that are not involved."

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office, the N.C. Department of Public Safety's Prison Emergency Response Team (PERT), Goldsboro police, N.C. Highway Patrol, Johnston County Sheriff's Office, probation officers, and several fire departments responded to the scene.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report

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