One confirmed dead in second Parchman riot in as many days


The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman experienced what appears to be its second riot in two days Thursday, each one resulting the death of an inmate.

Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton confirmed to The E-T this afternoon that an inmate lost his life during what she described as a gang-related fight. 

The family of the victim has not been notified, so she did not offer any details about the individual killed on Thursday.

Walter Gates, 25, was the male victim during Wednesday’s brawl, which occurred just after midnight in the northern Sunflower County penitentiary.

Burton said there were several other people who were injured and were taken to hospitals across the region, including Greenville and Clarksdale.

Burton also confirmed a report that a fire had been set inside the facility. She said Unit 30-A was set on fire, but there were no injuries directly related to that fire.

Burton, who arrived at the prison on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. described the atmosphere at Parchman as “very tense.”

“(There’s a) heavy law enforcement presence,” she said.

Burton said there were four such fights during all of 2019 that she was aware of, and there have been two in the first two days of 2020.

Burton said, along with the Sunflower County Sheriff’s Department, neighboring sheriffs were also on hand from Bolivar County, Washington County, Tallahatchie County and Issaquena County.

She said she did not witness any local municipal police inside the prison.

Earlier this week, Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall announced her resignation, which is set to take effect in the middle of this month, according to The Associated Press.

According to a report from the Sun-Sentinel in Tallahatchie County, both Tallahatchie law enforcement and firefighting personnel have been on hand this afternoon supporting prison officials in the aftermath of the fight.

The following is an excerpt from the newspaper’s web article. The rest of the article can be read by clicking here.

Richard Gipson, public liaison officer for the Tutwiler Fire Department, said he and other Tutwiler firefighters were toned out at 1:30 p.m. to assist with a fire at Unit 30, Building A, reportedly related to a riot.

Tutwiler firefighters were on the scene for about an hour, assisting the Parchman Fire Department by shutting off the sprinkler system and ventilating smoke from the building, Gipson added. They were back in their fire station at 2:48 p.m.

Gipson said he saw inmates standing outside the building, some in handcuffs, as firefighters worked.  Law enforcement personnel from Bolivar County, Ruleville and Drew police departments, the Sunflower County Sheriff's Office and the Mississippi Highway Patrol were among those he personally observed there.

Gipson noted that he also heard about a possible disturbance or riot occurring at Unit 29, but had not received verification.

"It's a mess over there!" he exclaimed.

Tallahatchie County Fire Coordinator Linnie Maples said he read a report suggesting that fires had broken out in several inmate units at Parchman.

Someone who answered the telephone at the MDOC Office of Communications in Jackson said he did not have anything to report about the incident at Parchman.

Click the link below for The E-T's comprehensive coverage of the Parchman deaths, escapes


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