Two die in prison gunbattle over sex scandal

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A furious gunbattle erupted inside a federal prison Wednesday 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 and contraband. Two people were killed and another was wounded.

The dead were the guard and a U.S. Justice Department investigator, according to a law enforcement official. A prison employee helping with the arrest was hospitalized.

Six guards in all had been indicted Tuesday on charges they had sex with the women by bribing them with money and contraband, which was not specified but could include drugs and alcohol. Authorities said the activity went on for two years.

When FBI agents and Justice Department investigators arrived at the prison Wednesday 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, the law enforcement said, though 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.

In addition to the sex charges, the guards were accused of threatening to plant contraband in inmates’ belongings or have them sent to other institutions farther from their families if they reported the illegal activity.

According to the indictment, the guards showed inmates information about themselves and inmates on the prison computer system to prove that their threats were real. It said the guards switched assignments to arrange trysts with inmates.

The five other guards entered not-guilty pleas in federal court and were scheduled for a bail hearing today. They were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, witness tampering, mail fraud and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

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