LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Five inmates were charged Thursday in unrelated attacks the same afternoon that injured guards at two Arkansas prisons and number among a string of violent disturbances in the state's correctional facilities this year.
Prosecutor Kyle Hunter charged inmates Alfred Maxey, Robert Rhodes, Kirk Traylor and Jeremy Williams each with two counts of battery for the attack on two guards at the state's Varner Unit on Sept. 28. Hunter also charged Gary Gould with one count of battery for the attack on another guard earlier that afternoon at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker. Traylor and Williams were also each charged with one count of possession or use of a weapon by an incarcerated person.
A State Police investigator said in an affidavit filed in state court that the Varner attack began when Traylor confronted Correction Officer Corey Lowery about a homemade hoodie the guard had confiscated from the inmate earlier that day. A Department of Correction spokesman said the hoodie would be considered contraband material.
Traylor attacked Lowery, cutting and stabbing him several times with a homemade weapon, according to the affidavit. The affidavit accuses the other three inmates of joining in on the attack. It says Williams also used a homemade weapon to cut and stab the guard.
Another officer, Herbert Straughn, received cut and stab wounds to the back of his head and neck when he responded to assist Lowery. The department in September said it used nonlethal force on several inmates who barricaded themselves in a barracks after the assault.
The Varner attack occurred less than three hours after the attack at the Maximum Security Unit, also known as Tucker Max. According to another affidavit filed by State Police, security footage showed Gould striking Correction Officer James Duke with his fist as the guard was writing a disciplinary form about the inmate. The footage showed Gould jumping on Duke and hitting the guard repeatedly after he fell to the floor, according to the affidavit.
All three guards were hospitalized and later released. The Varner guards have since returned to work, but the guard injured in the Tucker Max attack has not, Correction Department Spokesman Solomon Graves said.
The string of violence at Arkansas prisons has included inmates taking guards hostage on two separate occasions at the Tucker Max facility, and in one of those incidents inmates snatched keys and a Taser from the guards. State prison officials earlier this year announced several security upgrades in response to the incidents and have said they're struggling with a high number of vacancies.
"Achieving successful prosecutions is an essential tool in combating incidents of violence within our facilities," State Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley said in a statement Thursday. "We will continue to support and cooperate with the prosecution of these cases as they proceed through the trial phase."
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