DPS increases prison safety measures after fatal incident in Pasquotank

Clockwise, from top left: Wiszeah Buckman, Seth Frasier, Johnathan Monk and Mikel Brady (Photos courtesy Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office)

ELIZABETH CITY, Pasquotank County - Four inmates are being charged with the murder of two Pasquotank Correction Institution employees after a failed escape attempt and now the Department of Public Safety is taking action.

Inmates Wisezah Buckman, Mikel Brady, Seth Frasier and Johnathan Monk are accused of planning the escape attempt and are each being charged with two counts of first degree murder. Justin Smith and Veronica Darden were killed in the attack.

Two other employees remain hospitalized in Norfolk in critical condition.

Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright said there is no indication any of the victims were burned and that inmates used a fire as a diversion as a means of attempting to escape.

The Department of Public Safety is now considering taking more action to make prisons safer following the attack. They released this statement at 3:50 p.m. on October, 20:


The Department of Public Safety is taking more action to make prisons safer following a violent attack at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City that claimed the lives of two prison employees on Thursday, Oct. 12.

Following the Friday, Oct. 13 meeting with Governor Roy Cooper, Secretary Erik A. Hooks and state prison leaders, DPS immediately implemented prison safety action items. Today, at Secretary Hooks' direction, more actions are being taken.

"As we continue to mourn our colleagues and friends and pray for those critically injured, we not only must seek justice for the perpetrators, we are taking steps to try to ensure that this sort of tragedy never happens again," Secretary Hooks said. "I am committed to conducting a complete and thorough investigation of the events that occurred to make the prison environment safer for our staff, visitors to our facilities and the inmates we house. I also want to express my gratitude for the quick response and thorough attention to this case by the State Bureau of Investigation, the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office."

Immediately after the event, the Department began a thorough assessment of the incident to determine where changes to policies, procedures or safety measures are necessary. Based upon the ongoing review of the incident, Secretary Hooks initiated the following additional actions:

Requested the National Institute of Corrections conduct an independent and comprehensive review of the safety and security operations at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, as well as all aspects of Correction Enterprises' safety protocols to include staffing patterns, inmate worker placement assessments, training and operational procedures. Shut down operations at the Pasquotank sewing plant permanently. Conduct a thorough review of all inmates currently assigned to work in Correction Enterprises operations. Pending that review, a specific set of inmates with convictions for assaultive crimes will be suspended from participation in Correction Enterprises operations that involve the use of cutting and/or impact tools until further risk assessments can be completed. Those with convictions of a violent crime against a government official and/or law enforcement are ineligible for assignment to any work station utilizing or providing access to cutting and/or impact tools without expressed approval of the Director of Prisons Office. Organize an advisory committee to consider and recommend additional technology and individual devices to enhance the safety and security of prison and Correction Enterprises staff, prison facilities and plant operations. (Committee to include representation from Prisons operations, Adult Correction Special Operations and Intelligence, Legal, State Highway Patrol and Emergency Management).

As previously provided, below are some of the steps Secretary Hooks implemented on Oct. 13:

Reviewing the safety of all Corrections Enterprises operations at all state prisons. Increasing the number of correctional officers who provide security in Correction Enterprises areas, and increasing the number of rounds by the officer in charge within those areas until such time as we are able to conduct a security review to ensure the safety of employees. Reviewing emergency procedures at all facilities to enhance safety and security. Conducting a complete facility search at Pasquotank Correctional Institution by 100 trained and well-equipped Prison Emergency Response Team members to look for evidence, as well as unrelated contraband that may be in the facility.

Correction Enterprises employs about 2,500 inmates statewide, teaching job skills in 17 different industries, while producing goods and providing services for government agencies.

Two prison employees were killed and several others injured Oct. 12 at Pasquotank Correctional Institution when a group of inmates working in a Correction Enterprises program tried to escape.

The inmates started a fire in the prison's specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work producing embroidered logo items, safety vests and other sewn items. The fire was extinguished. After the fire was set, several inmates attempted to escape but were not successful.

"The deaths of two employees and severe injuries to others are horrifying," said Secretary Hooks. "As a career law enforcement professional, I am outraged that someone who was convicted of attempting to murder a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper, as well as the other inmates who also were convicted of violent attacks, were allowed to work in an environment where they had access to tools that could be used as weapons. Correctional officers like law enforcement dedicate their lives to protecting and serving the public, and they must be safe in their jobs. "

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