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June 22, 2006 - Tallahassee Democrat (FL)

Two Die In Shootout At Federal Prison

Third Person Hurt; FBI To Open Its Inquiry Today

By Jeff Burlew, Democrat Staff Writer

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A team of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C., will begin an investigation today of a shootout Wednesday that left two people dead and one seriously injured at the Federal Correctional Institution.

"They will start first thing in the morning," said Michael Folmar, the FBI's special agent in charge in Jacksonville. "And they're the ones that are going to piece all of this together and put all the facts together."

The agents traveling to Tallahassee are part of the FBI's Shooting Incident Review Team.

At 7:42 a.m. Wednesday, shots rang out at the prison after agents with the FBI and the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General arrived to arrest six correctional officers. The officers were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges. The allegations against them include giving contraband to inmates in exchange for sex and intimidating inmates in an effort to cover up the scandal.

Five of the guards were arrested and taken into custody, but a sixth, Ralph Hill, used his personal handgun and shot at the agents, according to Scott Middlebrooks of the federal Bureau of Prisons. More gunfire ensued, and Hill was killed.

William "Buddy" Sentner, an agent with the Office of the Inspector General, also was killed. Sentner, in his mid-40s, was based in Orlando. He had a career spanning about 15 years, Folmar said.

A lieutenant with the Federal Bureau of Prisons was injured in the shooting and was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. He was listed in stable condition and is expected to recover. Officials said they were not releasing his name because not all family members had been notified.

The shooting began inside the lobby of the Federal Detention Center, adjacent to the correctional institution, and ended outside the center's doors, said John Newland, a spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department. The detention center is a facility that houses men awaiting trial or awaiting transportation to another facility. The correctional institution houses low-security women.

The federal officers who had gone to arrest the guards apparently were not armed, Newland said.

"It was our understanding that law enforcement was not armed," he said, "because you're not allowed to bring a firearm onto federal grounds."

No inmates or civilians were involved in the shooting, and the complex was placed on lockdown and quickly declared secure.

Folmar said the guards were not aware of the federal indictment that had been handed down against them. In addition to Hill, those named in the indictment were Alfred Barnes, Gregory Dixon, Vincent Johnson, Alan Moore and E. Lavon Spence. All of the remaining guards except for Johnson were in the Wakulla County Jail. Johnson's location was unknown as of late Wednesday night.

"This arrest situation was done in a manner to be very controlled ... where nobody would have any weapons, and we could take this down so there wouldn't be any violence," Folmar said. "And this is exactly how it would be handled normally across the United States."

Folmar called it a "sad day" for law enforcement.

"These agents were out just trying to do their job, trying to do an arrest in a very controlled situation," he said. "And it just didn't go down exactly as planned."

Tallahassee police arrived on the scene within minutes, and their forensics team began processing the crime scene. Later, FBI agents arrived to go over the evidence at the scene. Newland said he was unaware of any similar shootings in his 18 years with TPD.

Allen Beck of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said that inmate assaults led to five staff deaths at federal and state correctional facilities from July 1, 1999, to June 30, 2000. The statistics are compiled every five years, and 2005 statistics are due by the end of the year. During the same time period in 1994 and 1995, there were 14 staff deaths.

The guards, with the exception of Johnson, were alleged to have had sex with inmates in exchange for contraband, according to the indictment. Johnson allegedly counseled an inmate not to cooperate with the investigation.

It wasn't the first time guards at the facility have been accused of having sex with an inmate. In 2000, K.P. Price was sentenced to probation in connection with charges that he had sex with and impregnated an inmate. The inmate later sued Price.

The Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee is along Capital Circle Northeast about 3 miles east of downtown. It is a low-security facility housing females. There is an adjacent Federal Detention Center that houses males who are awaiting trial or awaiting transportation to another prison. About 1,445 inmates are housed at both facilities.

Contact reporter Jeff Burlew at (850) 599-2180 or Daniela Velazquez, Debra Galloway, Julian Pecquet and Rebeccah Cantley-Falk contributed to this report.

June 21, 2006 - Tallahassee Democrat (FL)

Officials Identify Agent Killed In Shooting

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5:53 p.m. update

William "Buddy" Sentner, an agent with the Office of Inspector General based in Orlando, was the other person killed in today's events.

Sentner had been in law enforcement for 15 years and was in his mid-40s.

The Democrat has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to officials at the Federal Correctional Institution and Detention Center for any security video or still photos that may have been taken in the lobby during the shooting.

Jason Stiles, spokesman for FCI, would not confirm or deny if such material exists.

3:20 p.m. update

The five corrections officers are currently in the custody of U.S. Marshals, said Andy Kilgore, spokesman.

Kilgore could not comment if they were being held in Leon County, but said the five are being watched and "in segregation."

2:40 p.m.update

The five guards arrested this morning at the Federal Correctional Institution did not enter pleas during an appearance in federal court this afternoon.

Alfred Barnes, Gregory Dixon, Vincent Johnson, Alan Moore and E. Lavon Spence appeared before and were held pending a detention hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday at the federal courthouse.

A trial date has been set for Aug. 21.

1:56 p.m. update

Attorney Timothy Jansen has confirmed that his client, Ralph Hill, was the local guard who started the shooting and was killed during the incident.

Hill was one of the six guards set to be arrested by federal agents at the Federal Correctional Institution this morning.

The shooting took place in the lobby of the detention center.

12:15 p.m. update

Two federal employees were shot and killed this morning when federal agents tried to arrest six employees of the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee.

One of the people killed was a federal agent serving the arrest warrant; the other was one of the subjects of the indictment, who was working at the Federal Detention Center where the 7:40 a.m. shooting took place, according to a spokesman for the FBI in Jacksonville.

"One of the subjects who was shot and killed was a subject of the warrant," said Rick Dent. "The other was a federal agent with the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General."

A third person, an employee of the Bureau of Prisons in Tallahassee, was also shot, Dent said. The third shooting victim, who was not a subject of the warrant, was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, said Tallahassee Police Department spokesman John Newland.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tallahassee, a grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday charging the six corrections officers with "using their position to obtain money from inmates in exchange fo introducing contraband into the prison." The indictement alleges that the conspiracy has been going on since 2003.

The charges against Alfred Barnes, Gregory Dixon, Ralph Hill, Vincent Johnson, Alan Moore and E. Lavon Spence are:

* engaging in a conspiracy to commit acts of bribery;

* witness tampering;

* mail fraud;

* and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering.

If found guilty they could face 20 years in prison.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, DC said the three people were shot inside Tallahassee's Federal Detention Center, which is adjacent to the Federal Correctional Institution on Capital Circle.

Carla Wilson said inmates were not involved in the shooting.

"There were no inmates involved in this incident," she said. "The institution is on lockdown. There is no threat to the community."

The correctional institution is a low security women's prison that houses about 1,400 inmates, Wilson said. The detention center is a jail for men that has about 205 inmates.

The two share some of the same staff, she said.

More information is expected to be released shortly when local and federal law enforcement agencies hold a press conference at the detention center.

Originally published June 21, 2006

Photo Galleries:

Shooting at the FCI (28 photos)

Multimedia downloads:

First press briefing on the prison incident

Officer John Newland gives information about the shooting at the Federal Correctional Institution

On the Web:

Talk about the shooting at the Federal Correctional Institution

Copyright ©2006 Tallahassee Democrat.

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