BUCKEYE, Ariz. – Negotiators worked around the clock to try to free a pair of correctional officers held hostage by two inmates in a weapons-stocked guard tower, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Negotiators first spoke with the hostages early Monday or late Sunday and the talks were continuing by telephone, Cam Hunter, a state Corrections Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday, the third day of the standoff. She described the talks as calm.
“We’ve had some dialogue with inmates,” she said. “There have been some very basic needs demands that they (negotiators) have been able to meet.” She wouldn’t elaborate on the demands.
“Even though we’re in the third day, it being this long is not hurting us. The teams may be building rapport with the inmates,” she added.
The standoff began Sunday morning after an inmate attacked a guard in the prison kitchen. The prisoner and another inmate then got into the observation tower where the two guards were stationed.
“They are not getting out,” Hunter said. “They are in a tower in the middle of the yard. It is very secure.”
One of the hostages was a man who was injured. Officials did not release details of the injury, but said the other hostage, a female officer, was not believed to be hurt.
“It’s positive that the inmates allowed us to talk to the officers,” Hunter said. “It’s assuring for the families, for the correctional officers, for the community.”
Hunter said authorities have not had visual contact with either the guards or inmates.
Authorities would not say if the inmates had made any threats. They said the tower was believed to be stocked with weapons, but would not say if the inmates were armed or why they were in prison.
Until the crisis is resolved, the 4,400 other inmates at the medium- to high-security Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis remained locked in their cells.
Officials said it was unclear whether the standoff resulted from a botched escape attempt.
“When this is all said and done, we’ll do a thorough analysis of what happened and how it can be prevented in the future,” Gov. Janet Napolitano said Monday.
Earlier this month, unrest broke out among about 80 inmates at the prison west of Phoenix. Three guards suffered minor injuries and two small fires were started.