Elizabeth City, NC – North Carolina Correctional Officer Justin Smith, age 35, and Veronica Darden, age 50, Correction Enterprises Manager, were murdered by inmates on Thursday, October 12, in a prison riot and attempted escape.
The incident occurred about 3 PM in the Pasquotank Correctional Institution’s sewing plant, Correction Enterprises, according to Fox8.
Inmates set fires inside the sewing plant as a diversion in a botched attempt to escape. About 30 inmates work in the sewing plant, where they produce “embroidered logo items, safety vests, and other items for Correction Enterprises.”
Despite the multiple fires that were set, and inmates out of control, correctional officers and prison employees were able to put the fires out and restore order.
Multiple prison employees were injured during the riot, and three remain hospitalized in critical condition on Friday morning, October 13. The three employees were flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for treatment. Their names were not released.
Seven other prison employees were transported to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City, where they were treated and released. Their names were also not released.
First responders on scene were heard describing the scene over emergency radio. They said “Be advised, we do have a mass casualty incident. I have multiple patients. Some of them are critical…There are probably no more than two critical. But I have many, many patients”, according to NBC News.
Another first responder radioed dispatch and described the condition of one correctional officer as having been “struck multiple times with an hammer.”
Four inmates were injured during the attempted escape and were transported to SAMC for treatment. Their names have not been released, and their condition is unknown.
The prison was put on lockdown for several hours until order could be restored. Local law enforcement agencies and the Prison Emergency Response Team responded to assist. PERT is a tactical unit consisting of officers from other prisons.
All inmates are accounted for, with several counts as confirmation.
A local community college cancelled classes, and Northside Elementary School, Elizabeth City Middle School, and Pasquotank County High School in the area were put on lockdown. The lockdown at area schools was later lifted, and students were released to go home.
The high-security prison has a capacity of 900 inmates, but Thursday’s count was 725.
The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are conducting the investigation.
North Carolina Correctional Officer Justin Smith had worked as a Correctional Officer since 2012. He worked inside the sewing plant as security.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of NC Correctional Officer Justin Smith. Godspeed, sir, we will take the watch from here. Thank you for your service.
CO Justin Smith, your life mattered.