Author: Brad Deen
It is the darkest day in Prisons history.
On Oct. 12, 2017, four staff members of Pasquotank Correctional Center died during an escape attempt. Five years later, prison employees memorialized their fallen colleagues.
In Raleigh, at the Fallen Officers Memorial on the Prisons Administration lawn, Acting Commissioner Brandeshawn Harris called them “heroes.”
“They died doing their jobs,” Harris said. “We must always keep them in our hearts. We must never allow Oct. 12, 2017, to fade from our memories.”
In Elizabeth City, promptly at 10:12 a.m., Pasquotank staff released balloons into the sky. A moment of silence followed.
End of Watch came much too soon for:
- Correctional Officer Justin Smith
- Correctional Officer Wendy Shannon
- Correction Enterprise Manager Veronica Darden
- Maintenance Mechanic Geoffrey Howe.
The botched escape began in the prison sewing plant. Four offenders armed with hammers and scissors left four dead and others seriously injured before they were stopped at the fence.
All were charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The ringleader, Mikel Brady, has been convicted and sentenced to death. A trial for the second defendant, Wisezah Buckman, has been delayed repeatedly. No trial dates have been set for Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk.
Pasquotank Warden Daniel Everett said his team members still talk about that day.
“Some are still emotionally challenged based on the events,” Everett said. “New employees when hired — staff tend to educate them on the incident and provide guidance and reassurance that safety and security measures have been enhanced.”
For example, a tier system limits offender movements by allowing only a certain percentage of offenders outside their cells at a given time. Access to tools has also been tightened.
Security enhancements aren’t confined to Pasquotank. Throughout the North Carolina prison system, facilities have upgraded communications, issued stabproof vests to frontline staff and tasers to supervisors.
The fundamentals of prison work are worth emphasizing: Be aware of your surroundings. Remain focused. Remember your training.
Above all: Look out for one another.
“On this day, we recommit ourselves to keeping our communities safe and to stay ever-vigilant as we do our jobs with care and compassion,” Commissioner Harris said. “I urge everyone to rededicate themselves to supporting, protecting and uplifting each other. We are all in this together.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Prisons Head Chaplain the Rev. Susan Addams leads a prayer after remarks by Commissioner Brandeshawn Harris during a five-year anniversary memorial for the four Prisons employees murdered at Pasquotank Correctional on Oct. 12, 2017.