POLKTON An Anson County prison with a history of troubles was placed on lockdown Friday after a convicted murderer was killed and another inmate injured in a brawl at the high-security facility.
The incident, which authorities described as an altercation between several inmates, occurred at about 12:20 p.m. in a pod at the Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton, about 45 miles east of Charlotte.
State corrections officials identified the inmate killed as Wesley Eugene Turner, a 35-year-old who had been in prison since 1996 for multiple offenses, including second-degree murder. Turner had 43 infractions against him during his time behind bars, including one for fighting in August, according to the website for the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
He’d been shot and wounded by officers in 1999 as he tried to flee a prison farm in northeastern North Carolina.
Turner had been housed at Lanesboro Correctional since April 2009, and was set to be released in 2017.
Authorities are not releasing the name of the injured inmate because of security reasons, said Pamela Walker, a state public safety spokeswoman. But she said the inmate remained hospitalized on Friday.
Officials released few other details on the fight, saying they’re still investigating what prompted the altercation and how many people were involved. It was unclear Friday who, if anyone, might face charges in Turner’s death.
The pod where the incident happened has about 140 inmates, but not all were involved, said Lanesboro Correctional’s administrator, Lawrence Parsons.
Authorities have recovered what they believe was the weapon used in the fight, which they described only as some type of metal. But they said they don’t yet know how it was obtained.
Anson County Sheriff Tommy Allen said the prison houses many high-risk inmates, including gang members. But officials said late Friday that they didn’t yet have information to suggest that the fight was gang related.
When the fight broke out, prison guards worked quickly to separate the inmates, Parsons said. No guards were injured or threatened.
Hours after the incident, the prison remained on lockdown, with inmates confined to their assigned cells.
The Anson Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation responded to the prison on Friday. Several corrections officers with the Prison Emergency Response Team in protective vests were seen outside the institution Friday evening.
Lanesboro Correctional, a large concrete building surrounded by high fences with rows of barbed wire, is a 1,000-cell facility that opened in 2004. It is located adjacent to Brown Creek Correctional Institution and Anson Correctional Center in a largely rural area.
Lanesboro Correctional has drawn scrutiny in the past. Last year, Administrator Richard Neely was removed from his post after a former sergeant said Neely instructed her to destroy video footage of a corrections officer fighting with an inmate. In 2009, an inmate was repeatedly pepper sprayed by corrections officers after requesting medical help.
State officials replaced top administrators at the prison, including then-Administrator Rick Jackson, after reports by The Observer about the pepper-spray incident.
Also in 2009, three corrections officers were injured after about 40 inmates gathered and began acting like they were preparing for a fight after officers pepper-sprayed an inmate who began throwing punches at them. Officers managed to defuse the situation.
Turner went to prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a 23-year-old Goldsboro man in 1995.
Four years later, Turner and two other men were shot as they tried to escape a prison farm along the Roanoke River, according to reports.
Prison officials said the trio was pulling weeds in a cotton field at the Odom Correctional Institution when they suddenly stood up and began running. They dropped to the ground when officers fired, and then stood and fled across a road as they were shot.
Turner, who was 22 at the time, was wounded in a shoulder and leg. Another inmate trying to flee was also hurt, and a third, who was convicted of raping and stabbing a Raleigh school teacher, was shot dead by corrections officers, according to a 1999 report from The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
That year, he was convicted of attempted prison escape. Then, in 2003, he was charged with two counts of assault on an officer. His list of prison infractions shows he was accused of assaulting prison staff with a weapon that day, as well as disobeying an order.
In 2005 – while still in prison – he was convicted of attempted assault on a public official. Details about that incident weren’t immediately available.
Prior to Friday, the most recent inmate death in North Carolina to be ruled a homicide happened in October 2011 at Orange County Correctional Center in Hillsborough, according to Walker.
Jimmy Griffin, 51, who was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, collapsed in the recreation yard and died later at a hospital, according to reports. Another inmate, who was accused of striking Griffin in the head, was charged with voluntary manslaughter.
News Researcher Maria David and staff writer Ames Alexander contributed.