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Ariz. inmate holding guard hostage seen with weapon

Sunday, February 1, 2004

BUCKEYE, Ariz. -- One of two inmates holding a corrections officer hostage in a prison tower walked on the roof carrying what appeared to be a shotgun or rifle Saturday, the first time in the two-week standoff that either of the inmates had shown a weapon.

Prison officials said the action wasn't preceded by offensive action from snipers.

"Only the inmate (knows) the motive for carrying the weapon," said Alan Ecker, a Corrections Department representative. He added that negotiations hadn't broken down to the best of his knowledge.

The inmate swung the weapon but never aimed it during the short time he walked on the roof. He gestured a couple of times, once appearing to wave in the direction of the media camped across the highway.

The inmates took two guards, a man and a woman, hostage on Jan. 18 at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, in Buckeye west of Phoenix. The man was released Jan. 24, and negotiations to release the woman have been continuing.

"I'm hopeful every day. I have to look at the sequence of events," Corrections Department representative Ivan Bartos said Saturday. "The fact that negotiations are ongoing after 14 days, that the negotiators continue to make contact, to work with these hostage takers is a very good sign."

Negotiators last saw the captive guard Tuesday, but heard her Friday during a telephone check.

"She is alert and she's mobile, and she appears to be doing OK under the circumstances," Bartos said.

One of the hostage takers emerged from the tower Saturday afternoon when a siren sounded for a few seconds at the prison. Prison officials didn't explain why the siren went off or its significance.

The standoff at the 4,400-inmate prison began when an inmate attacked two guards and another worker in a kitchen area. That prisoner and another inmate then got into the observation tower where two guards taken hostage were stationed.

Prison officials have released few details about the officers, the inmates or how the takeover happened, saying they don't want to hurt negotiations. The facility has remained in lockdown since the hostage situation began.

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On the Net:

Department of Corrections: http://www.adc.state.az.us/


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