3 still hospitalized following attempted escape at NC prison

Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden, 50, and Correctional Officer Justin Smith, 35. (DPS)

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WNCN) – Three prison employees are still hospitalized following Thursday’s attempted escape at Pasquotank Correctional Institution that left two dead, officials said.

Correctional Officer Justin Smith, 35, and Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden, 50, were killed in the incident.

RELATED: 2 NC prison employees dead after inmates’ attempted escape

A total of 10 employees and four inmates were injured when prisoners started a fire in the prison’s Correction Enterprises Specialty Sewing Plant, Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright said.

Officer Wendy Shannon, Officer George Midgett and mechanic Geoffrey Howe remain in the hospital.

Four prisoners attempted to escape but prison officials confirmed no inmates made it beyond the outside perimeter. Those four inmates have been moved to Polk Correctional Institution in Butner.

Cartwright said the inmates started a fire to distract guards and they ran through a loading dock towards a fence. The attempted escape was not a spontaneous event, according to Cartwright.

Officials would not confirm how the prison employees were injured or killed and said the medical examiner would release a report with that information later.

Gov. Roy Cooper said he directed state prison officials to take action to ensure the safety of their employees. Cooper called for the suspension of the work program at Pasquotank Correctional Institution.

He also called for a safety review of all inmate work programs.

The prison remains on lockdown for security reasons.

Officials said charges are expected to be filed as the SBI is working the with district attorney’s office on the case.

Prison officials said employees are armed with mace and batons.

Elizabeth City police, the Highway Patrol and SBI responded to Thursday’s incident. An estimated 200 officers responded to the attempted escape, the Department of Public Safety said.


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