Three hostages rescued at Fountain
Published 8:28 am Sunday, September 3, 2000
BONNIE BARTEL LATINO
Special to The Atmore Advance
Three medium security male prisoners confined at G. K. Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore took a nurse and two correctional officers hostage in the unit's health care unit shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday. After about an hour-and-a-half the hostages were rescued by members of one of the Department of Corrections' five statewide Emergency Response Teams. Prison officials and officers from Fountain and nearby Holman Correctional assisted in the rescue of the women, one of whom was pregnant.
According to Charlie Jones, warden of all Atmore-area prisons, Fountain's night shift commander, Luck Chambers, discovered the hostage situation in progress in the X-ray room around 12:45 a.m. Using a hand-held radio confiscated from one of the officer hostages, the inmates communicated with Chambers that they wanted to speak with Warden Jones.
Chambers was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but in a telephone interview in the early afternoon, Warden Jones stated that he was called at home just after 1 a.m. that morning telling him that inmates were holding hostages in the X-ray room.
Jones arrived at the prison moments later. Because Jones and Chambers couldn't see into the X-ray room, the number of inmates and hostages was not initially known.
Prison officials used the demand for a lighter as a way to stall until more off-duty officers could arrive at the prison. Jones said after he determined how many inmates were involved and who they were, and after one of the inmates said, ". . . that if they didn't get the lighter and a news representative to talk to, blood was gonna start flowing out of the X-ray room," he made the decision that a rescue attempt should be made.
By that time, one of the state's five Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several off-duty officers, including deputy wardens from Fountain and Holman, Jerry Farrel and Grantt Culliver, had arrived at the prison. Coincidentally, Culliver is Alabama's CERT coordinator. That overall group consists of five 13-man specialized teams from across the state. The selected officers have been through rigorous training to respond to prison riots and other complex prison situations.
Again prison officials used the cigarette lighter to divert the inmates attention off the hostages and onto prison officials. Jones said, "The door wasn't locked, but the inmates had jammed a metal medical file cart up against it. We slid a green Bik lighter under the door. Looking beneath the door, we could watch their shadows on the X-ray room floor. When we saw that they were fixin' to pick up the lighter, we rushed the door and a struggle ensued. In that split second, we were able to get the prisoners away from the hostages and make the rescue."
The rescue was completed around 2:20 a.m. Though no one was physically injured,