NC Public Safety releases names of prison workers killed

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Emergency and police vehicles outside the prison following an incident, Thursday, October 12, 2017.

Veronica Darden.jpg

From staff reports

Friday, October 13, 2017

The N.C. Department of Public Safety has released the names of two employees killed during Thursday’s attempted inmate escape at Pasquotank Correctional Institution.

They’re identified as Correctional Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden and Correctional Officer Justin Smith.

Darden, 50, supervised and trained inmates working in the prison’s specialty sewing plant. She had been a Correctional Enterprises employee since 2007 and previously worked as a correctional officer.

Smith, 35, provided security in the Correction Enterprises specialty sewing plant. He had worked as a correctional officer since 2012.

Three other prison employees injured in the inmate escape attempt remain hospitalized in critical condition at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Seven other prison employees were treated and released from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City.

Four inmates were treated for injuries resulting from the incident.

In a press release late Thursday night, a state correction spokeswoman said that about 3 p.m. Thursday, inmates started a fire in the prison’s specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work. The inmates work for Correction Enterprises making embroidered logo items, safety vests and other items, the release said.

The fire was extinguished, but after the fire was set, several inmates attempted to escape. The escape attempt was unsuccessful, the release said.

The prison is now back under control and remains on lockdown, the release said. Members of the DPS Prison Emergency Response Team, consisting of officers from other facilities, are at Pasquotank Correctional Institution assisting correctional staff at the prison.

Both the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident.

Gov. Roy Cooper released a statement late Thursday night on the deaths of the prison employees.

“Those who work in our prisons do a difficult and demanding job that is critical to our safety,” he said. “We're grateful to these fallen prison employees for their service, and we offer our condolences to their families, friends, coworkers and community on this tragic loss.”

Top state prison officials also released statements about the prison workers’ deaths.

“The DPS family is devastated by the tragic events that took place at Pasquotank Correctional Institution,” Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and co-workers of the employees who lost their lives in service to the state. We will do everything we can to support their families during this difficult time. I want to thank law enforcement and emergency responders for their assistance, and we will do everything we can to assist the investigation.”

Chief Deputy Secretary W. David Guice also released a statement.

“Our hearts are broken by this tragedy that took members of our Correction family,” he said. “Words cannot express our deep sorrow. We will work closely with investigators to learn the circumstances of today’s incident and bring to justice those responsible.”