ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Beating after beating; detainees at the St. Louis City Justice Center left alone for hours while guards watched from windows nearby.

Many have voiced concerns to News 4 Investigates about that video – and now some loved ones of injured detainees are threatening to sue.

Major Tonya Harry said despite what it might look like on video, she stands by the response of her corrections team early Saturday morning.

“As chief of security, it pains me to even hear of anybody getting hurt,” she said. “If my staff just went in at the time, how many more people would have been injured? Staff and inmates, so we want to make sure that we go in with a calculated response so that no one else gets hurt.”

Several problems, Harry said, contributed to the riot: Faulty locks meant more detainees were out of their cells than should have been. Staff members weren't properly outfitted to intervene and due to staffing shortages, there is no special response unit scheduled for that time of day.

And the detainees, in what Harry called a hostage situation had threatened the officers, too.

“From the reports that I have gathered, they said if we were to come in, we were going to get the same things,” Harry said. “They had things that could be used as weapons. So, at that time, we have to strategically ensure the safety of everyone.”

Harry said her officers gathered the names of the assailants and looked on as beating after beating occurred in the rec room. The police were assembling outside she said after they had called for the backup. Harry said the officer’s followed established protocols and policies, even trying to get one injured inmate out, but the rest rushed the door. An officer had to deploy pepper spray that also hit staff members.

Harry said there is much more that they need to ensure this never happens again.

“If we had proper manpower, the special response team, the proper equipment, even with face masks for when we do deploy the OC, to where we don’t get incapacitated. To get these locks fixed,” Harry said.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.