Written with contribution from Sheriff David Clarke
A Saturday riot at a St. Louis jail was reportedly cheered on by local resident onlookers, one of whom seems to have shouted “free the gang!” as windows were smashed and debris thrown into the street.
The KDSK-TV film crew captured footage of locals dancing and cheering as the riot raged on in the justice center.
“People appear to be cheering on the inmates, a group of about 3 people are currently dancing in the street. One man shouts ‘free the gang,’” reporter Jasmine Payout tweeted.
— Jasmine Payoute (@jpayoute) February 6, 2021
The incident broke out early Saturday morning at the St. Louis City Justice Center.
KDSK reported that, according to St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, “a corrections officer got into a scuffle with a detainee on a fourth-floor unit and was then jumped by other detainees, Edwards said. The detainees had been able to ‘jimmy their locks’ and the locks don’t necessarily lock, he said.”
“Even though our automated P.A. system would indicate that the cells are locked, they are in fact not locked and so other detainees were able to get out of their cells and into the unit,” Edwards said.
The corrections officer was able to get out of the unit and was taken to the hospital, where Edwards said he is now “doing well.”
The inmates had, however, gained access to a panel used to release other detainees into that unit, and the men were able to get into the hallway and into a second unit that was then breached, he explained.
They had been “very violent and aggressive,” he also noted.
No detainees were hurt, and once officers entered the unit to quell the uprising, they all complied, he said.
“These are angry, defiant, violent people that we housed at the justice center. There is no one housed for misdemeanor, municipal offense or a low-level felony. These are assaults on a police officer, homicide, things of that sort — very, very violent men that are housed in these two units,” Edwards explained.
And men with a healthy sense of social justice activism as well, it appears, as the inmates broke windows and held up signs to the reported support of the crowd that had gathered outside the facility:
People incarcerated in the St. Louis city jail have taken over part of the jail and broke the windows, loved ones have gathered outside and are chanting in support of them.https://t.co/Z8czXbLSaR
— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) February 6, 2021
A few months ago I wrote about how prisoners in Texas could pop open their cells & jump out.
Some officials I talked to were skeptical that this was a widespread problem – but apparently it's happening elsewhere too.
This is how the riot in the St. Louis jail was possible: https://t.co/NbOMUr5MA5
— Keri Blakinger (@keribla) February 6, 2021