TALLAHASSEE -- A gun battle erupted inside a federal prison yesterday when a guard opened fire on FBI agents who had come to arrest him and several others on charges of having sex with female inmates in exchange for money, alcohol, and marijuana. Two people were killed and one was wounded.
The dead were the guard and a US Justice Department investigator, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. A prison employee helping with the arrest was hospitalized.
Six guards were indicted Tuesday in an alleged sex-for-contraband scheme authorities said went on for two years.
When FBI agents and Justice Department investigators arrived at the prison yesterday to arrest the men, one of the indicted guards shot a federal correctional officer, said FBI spokesman John Girgenti. He said the officers fired back.
The agents were not expecting the prison guards to be armed, although he could not immediately explain why.
The official said the guard fired with a personal weapon, wounding a Bureau of Prisons employee who was assisting with the arrest. Agents from the Justice Department's inspector general's office returned fire, killing the guard, the official said, adding that a Justice Department agent was killed in the exchange. It was not clear who fired that fatal shot.
``The institution is in lockdown status," said Carla Wilson, federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman .
Officials did not release the gunman's identity. But lawyer Tim Jansen said the dead guard was Ralph Hill, his client. The slain Justice Department agent was identified as William ``Buddy" Sentner, 44, who worked for the Secret Service before joining the inspector general's office in 2002. The identity of the survivor was not disclosed, but he was reported in stable condition.
The detention center houses mostly men being processed before entering the prison system. A low-security prison for female inmates is next to the detention center. Together the men's and women's units house 1,445 inmates.
Guards are prohibited from bringing personal weapons into prisons, but are not screened the way visitors are, Wilson said.
The five indicted guards who survived the gun battle entered not guilty pleas in federal court and were scheduled for a bail hearing today.