Warren County jail locked down after inmate attacked

Published 9:04 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

By John Surratt and Brandon O’Connor

The Vicksburg Post

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An inmate was beaten during a fight in one of the cellblocks at the Warren County Jail Wednesday afternoon, forcing authorities to put that cellblock on lock down, Sheriff Martin Pace said.

Pace said the injured inmate was taken to Merit Health River Region, where he was treated in the hospital emergency room and released.

The fight occurred about 4 p.m. in an upstairs cellblock in the jail and was filmed on a cell phone smuggled into the jail and then sent out through social media, Pace said.

The mother and sister of Denzell Watts, who is accused of shooting five people in a Christmas Eve shooting at L.D.’s Lounge in downtown Vicksburg, confirmed that he was the victim in the video, but Pace would not confirm that Watts was the victim.

“Jail staff, as well as criminal investigators, have been working on the case since Wednesday,” he said. “We are confident we have identified all the persons responsible and will release the information in the morning after formal charges are filed. The inmate who was injured is in a separate cell, and the other inmates who were involved in the beating are being held in lock down in the cell block.

“We are going to prosecute the people that are involved, but unfortunately this happens in correctional facilities. These people come in here, they have preexisting problems with each other that many times we don’t even know about.”

Pace said the investigation is still ongoing, but it appears five to six inmates were involved in the assault. The inmates involved were housed in a cellblock at the jail, which Pace said gives inmates access to communal areas and that no inmates were in areas they weren’t supposed to be in at the time of the incident.

“They are in the cellblock,” Pace said of where the incident occurred. “They don’t stay locked in something the size of your bathroom all day long. It is called a cellblock or a pod is an area where inmates are kept. Some of our pods house 20. Some of ours house 18 depending on which pod it is. There is a day use area where they have tables because they have to eat. In that same pod are their bunk areas. They’re not locked in something the size of their bed. It is a pod they are in. Nobody was out anywhere. They were in their pod.”

Watts’ sister Latoya Bishop said she first saw the video around 4 p.m. Wednesday after people began copying it from Snapchat where it was originally broadcast live and sending it to her through Facebook messenger.

“I started getting messages and everything that he was still going live and someone brought it and let me see it while he was going live,” Latoya Bishop said. “The videos have been coming through my messenger on Facebook all day.”

Latoya Bishop and Watts’s mother Ora Bishop said they believe Watts was attacked in retaliation for L.D.’s being closed by Vicksburg Police Chief Milton Moore and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. following the shooting.

“It is all stemming from that shooting they had at L.D.’s Saturday evening,” Ora Bishop said. “Come to find out they are mad because they shut L.D.’s down.”

Ora Bishop said she was able to talk to her son Wednesday evening after he was returned to the jail from the emergency room.

“My son is messed up. He basically doesn’t know who he is. He was crying to me last night saying ‘Momma get me out of here,’” Ora Bishop said. “He said he was asleep and when he woke up the only thing he noticed is he was in the shower. They did that deliberate and my son’s got three gashes over the left eye.”

Pace said contraband items including cellphones are an “ongoing problem” at the jail due in part to the way they are forced to accommodate visitors.

“We have to allow visitation actually in the hallways of the facility and my staff makes arrests on a regular basis for people trying to sneak cellphones or tobacco products and sometimes narcotics into the jail,” Pace said. “That is why everybody that comes in is screened. It is an ongoing challenge where you having to let people actually inside the facility. That is unheard of in any modern jail.”

Pace said the inmates involved in the beating will be charged, adding the inmate who had the cell phone will have an additional charge of having a cell phone in a penal institution.