Jailers quelled riot

Jailers at the St. Mary Parish Law Enforcement Center battled a group of rioting prisoners on March 2. The incident was detailed in documents obtained through a public records request.
(The Daily Review Photo by Preston Gill)

Anthony Variet

Darby Frickey

Public records request discovers jail fracas

Prison officials used Tasers and chemical spray earlier this month to subdue inmates who took over a room and were demolishing it by yanking down the suspended ceiling and lights, according to incident reports obtained through a public records request.
Darby Frickey, accused of murder, and Anthony Variet, jailed on drug distribution and domestic abuse charges, were arrested at the prison for inciting to riot in the March 2 incident at St. Mary Parish Law Enforcement Center in Centerville. Frickey was additionally charged with criminal damage to property.
A group of prisoners took over the room around 9 p.m. in which they had been isolated as jailers conducted a shakedown for contraband in Wolf D dorm, the documents state. Two or three hours later, after employing escalating measures, a “chemical agent was used, the offenders became compliant, and were extricated from the classroom,” one of the reports stated.
Contraband found and listed in the documents included a hacksaw blade, shank, cell phones, a phone charger and what looked to be a tattoo needle.
Five prisoners came out of the room, described as a classroom, to be interviewed, but the remaining 25 prisoners refused to come out one-by-one despite repeated orders to do so, and began turning off the lights in the room, several reports stated.
St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert said prisoners “got unruly for a while,” but the prison staff properly utilized their training.
“You always start verbally and then escalate. … As things progress you do the next thing,” Hebert said. “The actions deputies took resolved the issue.”
Nine reports from deputies or correctional officers gave an account of the fracas and were obtained in the public records request.
Several reports accused Frickey and Variet of encouraging the prisoners to damage the classroom and not follow commands given by prison staff.
Variet and another prisoner, Jamarcus Clark, said, “we should not have messed with them because when they get back to the dorm they will beat people up so that we will have to work all night,” one officer’s report said.
One officer accused Variet of attempting to “pull me into the room by my jacket sleeve. Other deputies assisted in pulling me back out of the room.”
The prisoners were warned that they would be sprayed with a “chemical spray to which they responded that they did not care,” another report said.
Officers wrote that after the prisoners were chemically sprayed, they became “more aggressive” and began “demolishing the room,” “tearing down ceiling tiles and smoke alarms,” and “broke the lighting fixture,” leaving “electric wires … hanging out the ceiling.”
They pulled the dry erase board from the wall and “pinned (it) against the door to barricade themselves inside the room,” wrote an officer in his report.
Hebert said the damage done by prisoners is in the process of being repaired.
An officer reported that “Frickey began to beat the window in the door with a light fixture.” At one point the same officer, who was described as observing the prisoners through the ceiling from a ladder in an adjoining room, said he saw “a group of several offenders (who) appeared to be trying to climb into the ceiling. I fired several pepperballs into the small group of offenders” and they dropped down.
A deputy said after multiple warnings, a sergeant entered the room and sprayed the offenders. An inmate “began to bang on the glass window to get him out and we were able to remove” and escort him and another inmate was observed “laying on the ground foaming from the mouth” and was removed and taken for medical attention, the deputy wrote.
Hebert said reactions to the chemical spray can be intense, but they are short term. All the prisoners were examined and treated by medical staff which is at the facility around the clock, he said.
“I have not received any reports of anything that lingered after that night,” Hebert said of the prisoners’ well-being. He said no deputies were injured.
An officer reported prisoners “begged to be let out because they couldn’t bear breathing the … spray-filled air. We attempted to open the door several times … but every time the door would start opening the one begging and all the offenders against the wall would start trying to rush the door. It … was unsafe to open the door until some form of backup arrived.”
A captain and two other officers entered the room and ordered prisoners to turn and face the wall, reports stated. Variet defied and cursed the captain who at some point “deployed his Taser with the prongs striking Mr. Variet in the back,” a report stated.
The captain deployed chemical agents upon the offenders, the three officers left the room “due to the spray getting to us” and eventually the prisoners were removed by two’s from the classroom about the time the special response team arrived, a report stated.
Once the situation was brought under control and prisoners were removed from the instigators, they become compliant, Hebert said.
“When you get the bad away from the guys that are trying to get back to normal, things tend to defuse,” Hebert said. “You have to do things the right way and even when you do them the right way things can escalate and get out of hand.”
Hebert said, that as with any other incident, the staff “assessed the incident to see if there is a better way to do things.”
Variet and Frickey were arrested March 10 in connection with the incident, but the arrests were not released in the daily arrest reports emailed to the Daily Review.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Traci Landry said the arrest was not released because, "There is a distinction between charges placed on the inmates while incarcerated and an arrest … They were not arrested. The offenses they are being charged with were added to their existing offenses to be turned over to the DA."
The reports stated that photographs were taken of the damaged room and contraband recovered, but assistant district attorney Anthony Saleme said he did not have any photographs.
The public record request was made after Variet pleaded guilty on March 18 to drug distribution, domestic battery and inciting to riot. His concurrent sentences total seven years at hard labor, with credit for the time he served since his 2011 arrest. The first two years of his sentence had to be served without benefit of parole.

By PRESTON GILL pgill@daily-review.com

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