In the wake of prison violence that left one Maryland State Penitentiary guard dead and seven guards and inmates injured Saturday, corrections officers searched the prison's cells for weapons yesterday and a union leader representing guards called for the ouster of the penitentiary's top officials.
"The warden there, Mr. [Leslie] Dorsey, and his assistant are totally incompetent as well as insensitive toward the corrections officers and their needs," said William D. Wharton, a member of the executive board of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. " . . . We are asking for the warden and the assistant warden to resign."
The violence Saturday, Wharton said, had been preceded a week earlier by a clash in which seven guards were hurt.
Beverly Marable, a corrections department spokeswoman, confirmed that on Sept. 26, two guards were stabbed and five received bruises and other minor injuries in a fracas in a segregation unit in the South Wing, where the attacks took place Saturday.
Warden Dorsey, who was in Virginia Beach when the violence took place and who returned early yesterday, declined to comment on Wharton's call for his ouster, saying, "I don't know the gentleman. I can't comment. . . . "
Wharton criticized assistant warden Patricia Schupple for not ordering a prison-wide "lock down" through the night, in which all prisoners would be locked in their cells, a containment measure that Wharton declared was necessary in the wake of the outbreak.
Dorsey responded by saying that Schupple had locked the inmates in their cells for two hours after the assaults and had ordered a search on the fifth tier, where the guard was killed.
"We thought that was sufficient at the time," he said.
Wharton said that the slain guard, Herman Toulson Jr., 39, had feared for his life and had requested at least three times to be transferred from his post on the South Wing, where he had worked for seven years.
"He received threats from the inmates and this was why he requested to get out of there," Wharton said. "I have one officer who knew of at least two times that he requested to be transferred in writing. I have a supervisor who knows that he requested at least three times verbally."
Dorsey said, however, that he was unaware of such a request.
"I haven't seen any statement to that effect," he said. "I haven't seen anything in writing."
The segregation unit in the maximum security institution's South Wing is home to the state's most troublesome prisoners who have been deemed a threat to themselves, other inmates or corrections officers, Marable said.
The inmates remain in their cells, some alone and some in pairs, for all but an hour each day, when they are permitted to exercise along the walkway that lines each of the tiers. They take their meals in their cells.
The prison-wide search for contraband that began yesterday was expected to continue for two or three days as corrections officers swept through the prison, cell by cell, looking for weapons and other contraband. Marable said that five homemade knives, called "shanks," fashioned from wooden bed slats had been found by late yesterday.
The usual complement of 80 guards at the prison, which houses 1,446 inmates, was augmented by 10 state police officers called in to assist in the search. All prisoners would remain locked in their cells until the search is completed, officials said.
Saturday's violence erupted in three incidents only minutes apart, beginning at about 3 p.m.
Toulson and fellow guard Willie James Newkirk, 37, were returning two inmates of the South Wing's segregation unit to their cells on the fifth tier after an exercise period when a scuffle broke out and both guards were stabbed. Toulson died of his injuries an hour later at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The two inmates, Nathaniel Appleby, 33, and Andre Swann, 23, were subdued by officers who rushed to the scene.
Moments later, at another location on the fifth tier, two other guards were assaulted by an inmate with what police believe was a ballpoint pen. And a few minutes after that, on the second tier, one inmate inflicted minor wounds on another with a homemade knife.
There was no indication that the assaults were part of a conspiracy, according to police and corrections and union officials.
But Charles Furth, a Baltimore homicide detective investigating the killing, said that the first fracas may have triggered the others.
"When the first incident occurred, I guess it just got the population in the prison's adrenalin going," he said. "They just saw it as a prisoner being picked on by the guards. . . . The word gets around that the guards are beating up on whatever, and everything gets bent out of proportion. I guess half of them don't really know that Appleby was the aggressor."
Furth speculated that the commotion on the fifth tier, which drew guards from other areas, set the stage for the attack on the inmate on the second floor.
Only two of the injured guards and inmates remained in the University of Maryland Hospital yesterday. Officer Newkirk was in satisfactory condition and Appleby, who is serving a life sentence for murder and robbery with a deadly weapon, was in serious condition with head injuries and possible cerebral bleeding.
No charges have been filed in any of the attacks, Marable said. Corrections officials expect the case to be presented to a grand jury, she added.