Jail inmates threatened nurse with torture, death: But rescuers shot last hostage
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PANAMA CITY - A sheriff's negotiator won the release of three employees before a SWAT team stormed the Bay County Jail when inmates threatened to torture and kill their remaining hostage, a nurse who then was accidentally shot, authorities said Tuesday.
The nurse suffered gunshot wounds in the back and leg Monday and remained hospitalized in stable condition, said sheriff's spokeswoman Ruth Sasser.
Inmates had taken over the six-story jail's third-floor infirmary, and one of them was holding a scalpel to the nurse's neck when the SWAT team and armed jailers ended an 11-hour standoff that began about 9 p.m. Sunday, Sasser said.
"We had pandemonium and chaos," she said. "Instead of allowing them to torture her and kill her, we were going in."
The hostages - three female nurses and a male guard - worked for Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the jail under contract with the county.
The identities of the wounded nurse, other hostages and the deputies who discharged their weapons were being withheld as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continued an investigation.
Licensed practical nurse Glenda Baker, however, told The News Herald of Panama City that she was one of the hostages released during the night.
The lights had gone off and a door to the floor's cells failed to lock before the incident occurred, Baker said. One inmate then released others and four hostage-takers overpowered the only guard on the floor. Then a panic button failed, she said.
Baker said those four inmates, identified by investigators as Kevin Winslett, Kevin Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin, assured the hostages they would not be hurt.
Winslett, the alleged ringleader, lost control of the situation when he began taking medications from the infirmary, Sasser said. She said authorities decided to end the standoff when inmates threatened to gang rape the remaining hostage and cut off her body parts.
Winslett was awaiting sentencing on charges of grand theft and armed robbery, authorities said. Nix was serving 14 years on various felony charges, Norton had a 30-year sentence for armed burglary and Coffin was awaiting sentencing for armed robbery with a firearm and escape.
Nix and Norton were treated for injuries when authorities took control of the third floor.
Two local television stations complied with a request to withhold information about the standoff Sunday night. Authorities said the inmates were eager for media coverage.
"They all have TVs up there," said sheriff's Lt. Greg Peel said.
A television anchor said she had received a telephone call Sunday night from someone claiming to be holding hostages at the jail. The caller said he was upset about health hazards there.
One piece of information that I have not noticed mention of in the reports published here is that Nurse Baker was new on the job (first day). The only reason I mention it is that in some local TV reports, and possibly written ones,she has made comments about conditions at the jail that someone new to the job would have little knowledge of.