Sheriff Darren Campbell said inmates were visiting with families and friends when 23-year-old inmate Martevius Simpson became aggressive while a detention officer was escorting inmates back to the housing pod.
According to Campbell, Simpson hit the officer with handcuffs and after he was subdued, other inmates started yelling and causing disturbances.
Additional law enforcement agencies were then called in to assist.
Officials said 25-year-old inmate Shyheim Millsaps was identified as one of the agitators after he became aggressive and failed to obey orders when a detention officer approached him.
While authorities tried to gain control of Millsaps, Campbell said 26-year-old Rick Chambers assaulted an officer from behind.
Campbell said the group of about 25 inmates, all housed together in an open space, started hitting and lining up near the locked door, separating them from the rest of the jail as if they were going to breach it.
So, officers called for assistance.
It took about 20 officers 15 minutes to get everyone under control, but in that time, three other officers were injured.
“It could’ve been a lot worse. We could’ve had broken bones, could’ve been worse that it was,” Campbell said. “The training paid off.”
Officers were eventually able to handcuff all of the inmates and used a chemical to gain control of the housing pod, which officials said at the time had almost every inmate off their bunks contributing to the riot.
Officials said inmates were preparing to fight by covering their faces and hitting walls around the pod area.
Campbell said Millsaps received medical attention for pepper-spray exposure and is being charged with felony assault on a detention employee, felony inciting to riot, failure to disperse on command and disorderly conduct.
Martevis Simpson was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and Rick Chambers was charged with two counts of felony assault on a detention employee, felony inciting to riot, failure to disperse on command and disorderly conduct.
According to investigators, it is unclear if Millsaps and Chambers worked together to start the riot, but additional charges are expected to come.
Campbell said the combined effort and quick response from all of the law enforcement agencies helped keep a dangerous situation under control.
Campbell and Chief Deputy Bert Connolly, who runs the jail, said the riot is why they are building a new pod.
“It don’t matter if you’ve got five officers, six officers,” Connolly said. “If you’ve got 20 inmates in that pod, you’re outnumbered all the way.”
The new jail, which is currently under construction, will allow the county to hold about 500 inmates total, compared to the current number of 277, and it is being built with officer safety in mind.
At the Iredell County Detention Center, inmates will be locked up in pairs, giving officers more control and keeping inmates apart.
“There’s a lot of things built into this jail, this expansion, that’s just good, potentially lifesaving measures for our officers and inmates,” Campbell said.
By: Elsa Gillis
Published: December 7, 2018