UPDATED 10:53 AM PT – Sunday, February 7, 2021
More than 100 inmates took over a section of a Saint Louis jail, setting fires and throwing objects from broken windows.
Dozens of inmates escaped from their cells at the City Justice Center in downtown Saint Louis around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, evading capture until their group rose to as many as 115 prisoners.
Inmates at St. Louis Justice Center have taken over at least part of the jail. There have been protests over COVID-19 dangers inside. Not sure if this is part of that. pic.twitter.com/roSCtkIHSK
— Doyle Murphy (@DoyleMurphy) February 6, 2021
Officials described them as “extremely violent and noncompliant,” prompting authorities to use tear gas to regain control.
The uprising also led to a brief standoff between inmates and police. Jimmie Edwards, the city’s Public Safety Director said the situation was under control around 10 a.m.
“There was a defiant inmate or defiant detainee who was very very upset,” Edwards stated. “That detainee got into a scuffle with our correction officer who was then jumped by others that were detained inside.”
The unidentified male officer suffered and rushed to the hospital following the incident, but officials said he has since been released and is doing well. Officials added the group chanted and held signs as they took over the fourth floor. They said inmates began to throw chairs and other items out of broken windows after setting fire to multiple sections of the facility.
Inmates also flooded the floors by clogging several toilets and drains. Though it has not yet been determined, officials described the cost of damage as “fairly extensive.”
According to Edwards, even though the automated PA system in the facility would indicate the cells are locked, they are in fact not, giving other detainees an easy means to escape.
Officials noted the incident was not any sort of hostage situation, and once officers entered to break up the incident and gain control, all of the inmates complied.
“We know exactly the people that were involved, we know the people that set the fires,” Edwards said. “We have lots of surveillance, and we’re gonna be able to take a look at that. This was a bunch of folk that were defiant. This was a bunch of people that decided that they were going to engage in criminal mayhem, and that’s exactly what they did and they should be held accountable for what they did.”
The incident is the third disturbance to occur at the center since late December. Officials said around 65 inmates have since been transferred.
Law enforcement is also in talks with the prosecutor’s office as some of the inmates involved could face additional charges.