FBI Investigating Excessive Force at Tucker Prison; Six Officers Fired

SEPTEMBER 20, 2006 - Posted at 7:49 a.m. CDT

TUCKER, AR - Six Arkansas correctional officers have been fired after an internal investigation found that an inmate was assaulted with a baton at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker.

At the request of the state, the FBI has now opened a civil rights investigation regarding a May 29 incident at the Tucker unit, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported today.

Prison officials say the incident happened after 35-year-old inmate Terry Botts stabbed two other inmates with a homemade knife.  Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Correction Department, says that four prison officials, including a captain and lieutenant, subdued Botts, but then began kicking and punching him.

Tyler says that last week, six officers were fired...the four involved in the beating and two who failed to report the beating or didn't tell the truth when questioned.  Also, three officers were suspended and four other employees were given written warnings.

The officers' names haven't been released because the investigation is ongoing, Tyler said.

Botts is serving a 61-year sentence on theft, robbery, burglary, and illegal possession of firearm convictions.  After the attack, he was treated at a Little Rock hospital for bruises and swelling to his face and nose.  He's since been moved to the Varner Supermax unit.

In a separate incident, a state excessive-force investigation led to the resignation of Captain Eric Hobbs, nephew of Correction Department Deputy Director Ray Hobbs.  Eric Hobbs resigned Monday; Tyler says he would have faced disciplinary action had he not resigned.

The FBI last investigated excessive force at an Arkansas prison in 1998.  Then, five officers were sentenced to federal prison terms for a series of inmate beatings, including the use of a cattle prod, at the Cummins Unit.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)