For 12 long and tense hours, the Bay County Sheriff's Office SWAT team negotiated with a group of inmates that had taken four employees hostage at the Bay County Jail.
When negotiations broke down and it appeared a hostage might be killed, SWAT team members went in and opened fire on the inmates. Two inmates and one hostage were wounded. Sheriff Frank McKeithen released details of the standoff during a news conference Monday evening.
The situation began around 8 p.m. Sunday night during a brief power outage. McKeithen would not comment on exactly how it happened, but four inmates on the third floor of the jail took four Corrections Corporation of America employees hostage. Three of the employees are nurses and one is a corrections officer. McKeithen says the inmates used several weapons, including knives and needles. He would not say how they obtained those weapons. The situation is still under investigation by the Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Kevin Winslett is the alleged ringleader of the inmates who took the hostages. He is in jail on charges of grand theft and armed robbery. Kevin Nix of Panama City was recently sentenced to 14 years in prison on numerous felony charges, according to a sheriff's office news release. James Norton of Alabama was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for armed burglary. Matthew Coffin is the fourth hostage-taker. He is awaiting sentencing on charges of attempted armed robbery, armed robbery with a firearm, and escape.
Shortly after the hostages were taken, the sheriff's office SWAT team arrived on scene at the downtown jail facility, along with the Hostage Negotiation Team, and CCA's special response team. The jail went into lock down.
McKeithen says the inmates' original demands were for several issues relating to health care at the jail. He says they complained about not getting the medicine they needed. The third floor of the jail houses inmates who have special medical needs.
McKeithen says Winslett was on the phone for most of the night with hostage negotiaters. At midnight, two hostages were freed in return for cigarettes, pizza, and a cell phone. Negotiations continued until 3:30 a.m. and another hostage was released. The remaining hostage was a female nurse whose name is not being released at this point.
According to McKeithen, the situation became very critical in the morning hours. The inmates apparently got into a medical supply area and began taking several different kinds of drugs. McKeithen says one of the inmates actually overdosed in the jail. Two of the others, he says, became violent and began threatening to sexually assault and kill the woman. He says Winslett told the negotiater that he had lost control of the others and warned him that things could get ugly. The inmates allegedly threatened to cut off the woman's body parts and hold them in the window to let officers know what had happened. Around 8 a.m. Monday, authorities made the decision to let SWAT members move in and use force.
McKeithen cannot say at this point exactly how the situation came to an end. He did tell News 13 that when SWAT members confronted the inmates, they were holding the female eimployee in front of them as a shield, threatening to kill her. Deputies fired shots, wounding two of the inmates and the hostage.
Nix and Norton were treated at Bay Medical Center for their injuries and then taken back to the jail. The four men will face more charges when the investigation is complete. The names of the hostages are being withheld at this time. McKeithen says the female nurse was wounded in the abdomen and the leg by gunshots, but she is in stable condition and is said to be in good spirits.
The Bay County Sheriff's Office will conduct the criminal portion of this investigation. The FDLE will investigate the shooting and provide the State Attorney's Office with the results of the case. The investigation is expected to be complete within 30 days.
"I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
--Frank Lloyd Wright