Guard, federal agent shot dead at Fla. prison

June 22, 2006|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A guard opened fire at a federal prison yesterday as federal agents tried to arrest him and five others in a sex-with-inmates scandal, sparking a gunfight that left him and an Orlando agent dead.

Agents shot and killed Ralph Hill, 43, a guard for about 12 years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee. William 'Buddy' Sentner, 44, a special agent with the Justice Department's inspector general office who worked in Coleman, died in the exchange of bullets.

"This is a sad day for law enforcement." said Michael Folmar, the FBI's special agent in charge. "These agents were just out trying to do their job. It just didn't go down exactly as planned."

Sentner, a former member of the Secret Service, was part of the team that had traveled to Tallahassee to serve arrest warrants on the guards, who were indicted late Tuesday.

A corrections officer who was helping the agents was also injured in the gunbattle.

Authorities would not release the name of the lieutenant with the Bureau of Prisons but said he was in a Tallahassee hospital.

The shootout began at 7:42 a.m., authorities said, as the federal agents arrived to arrest Hill and five other guards just as they ended their overnight shifts.

The indictment charges that since 2002 the guards had conspired to smuggle contraband, possibly including marijuana and alcohol, into the prison's female wing and then sold or exchanged it for sex with inmates.

The FBI and Justice agents confronted Hill just outside a small detention center on the FCI campus. Hill surprised them by opening fire with his personal weapon, authorities said.

Federal prison employees are prohibited from bringing weapons into lockups, Folmar said. But he declined to answer whether metal detectors are used to screen personnel entering the facility.

Folmar defended the decision to arrest the guards as they left work at the prison, saying it was intended to reduce the risk of any violence by catching them by surprise.

"These guards were unaware of these indictments today." Folmar said.

"This arrest situation was done in a manner to be very controlled in a situation where nobody would have any weapons and we could take this down so there wouldn't be any violence."

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