Government & Politics

‘Use lethal force’ — log book of Norton riot details clash as inmates attempted escape

An emergency log shows correctional officers considered lethal force during a riot at Norton Correctional Facility earlier this week.
An emergency log shows correctional officers considered lethal force during a riot at Norton Correctional Facility earlier this week.

For three hours Tuesday night at the Norton Correctional Facility, chaos reigned. Inmates tried to escape, and lethal force by guards was on the table, according to a log book obtained by The Star.

“North yard threat is intense, advise (inmates) to remain on ground otherwise use lethal force,” the log book states.

The emergency log is a record of communication among correctional officers by radio.

The log confirms correctional officers’ accounts about the state of disarray inside the Kansas prison: Inmates wrapped “large pieces of glass” in towels to use as weapons, they threw rocks at correctional officers, and they tried to devise a plan to charge the guards on duty.

“(Inmates) are trying to run over Capt. Crowder,” the log states. Another entry states that inmates had tipped over a medical response vehicle.

An air conditioner was removed from a window and panes were shattered as inmates tried to move into different areas of the prison. They commandeered a cart and progressed toward a fence, apparently in an attempt to escape.

Two guards were injured in the riot.

Samir Arif, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, declined to comment about the contents of the log book.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Arif said. “But officers are trained to deal with issues like this.”

The incident began at 9:30 p.m. and ended at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Rep. Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican, said he’d spoken with Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood about the incident.

“I’m sure that there will even be more that is revealed as this thing goes along. You had what sounds to be a very serious event with a large number of inmates that did a significant amount of damage and got into areas of the facility that they didn’t belong,” said Jennings, who oversaw the state’s youth correctional facilities before being elected to the Legislature.

Jennings, who serves as the chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice committee, described the Norton incident as “a bit of a melee.”

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, blasted the state agency for a lack of transparency regarding the incident.

“The public does not appreciate the administration trying to hide and whitewash what really happened behind the walls of Norton,” he said.

“It blows my mind that the facility lost control and that there was a captain that almost got run over … that to me is very serious right there and what the administration did, saying, ‘Oh, maybe a couple stones were thrown and a mattress caught on fire, well, that’s not true. There was a lot more going on here,’ ” Choromanski said.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, has been a critic of the department’s transparency.

“The pattern of covering up the severity of the incidents in our prisons is so clear,” Kelly said Thursday. “Each time something has happened, the department has been acting as if it’s a minor incident.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg