US agent among two dead in Florida prison gunfight

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Florida - An attempt to arrest federal prison guards on sex-for-contraband charges erupted in a gunfight that killed a US Justice Department agent and one of the guards on Wednesday, the FBI said.

Agents were trying to arrest six male guards at a federal detention center in Tallahassee, Florida, on charges that included giving female prisoners alcohol, drugs and money in exchange for sex, an investigator said.

One of the indicted guards opened fire and was shot dead, FBI spokesman Jeff Westcott said. An agent from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General was also killed, he said.

Another prison worker was shot and taken to a hospital, where his condition was unknown, Westcott said.

Prison spokeswoman Carla Wilson said no prisoners were involved and the facility had been secured.

The six guards were indicted on Tuesday on charges of conspiring to commit bribery, witness tampering, mail fraud and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering, according to the US Attorney's office in Tallahassee.

The suspects had conspired for nearly three years to trade contraband for sex, and sometimes swapped work assignments and moved inmates around in order to carry out the scheme, the indictment said.

Five of the guards were accused of having sex with women prisoners and the sixth was accused of trying to dissuade a prisoner from cooperating with investigators.

The indictment said prisoners were given contraband in exchange for sex or in exchange for acting as lookouts or keeping quiet about the violations. Guards threatened to plant forbidden items among inmates' belongings or to have them sent to prisons far away from their families unless they cooperated, the indictment said.

The shootout took place in the lobby of the Federal Detention Center in the Florida state capital, which holds men for short-term incarceration. It is adjacent to the Federal Correctional Institution, where women prisoners are held.

The guards worked at both facilities, prison officials said.

The five surviving suspects were arrested and arraigned on Wednesday, and were scheduled to go before a judge for bond hearings on Thursday. They would face 20 years in prison if convicted, the US Attorney's office said.

- REUTERS

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