LORTON, Va. — Convicts went on an arson rampage at the Lorton Reformatory early today, setting fires in 14 buildings to protest overcrowded conditions, and attacked guards trying to transfer them to other facilities, officials said.
While the fires were raging, 64 inmates identified as ringleaders of the torchings were taken to the District of Columbia Jail from the Lorton complex, the district's huge prison facility in suburban Virginia.
Five of the 14 buildings at the medium-security Occoquan Unit, where the fires started at about 1 a.m., were destroyed and the roofs of two of them collapsed.
"Let it burn!" one inmate shouted. "Let the mother burn to the ground!"
2nd Round of Violence
Helmeted guards fired tear gas and shotguns at 100 prisoners who attacked the guards on a baseball diamond in a second round of violence that erupted about 7:45 a.m.
About 20 inmates were injured in the fray, and two firefighters were caught in the tear gas.
Three firefighters and at least three prisoners suffered minor injuries in the fires.
When the violence and shooting broke out, guards were trying to account for inmates on the baseball field at the burned-out facility, prison official Leo Givs said.
"In the process 100 inmates surged and pulled the two guards into their midst," Givs said.
Prisoner in Hospital
The condition of the guards was not known, but a prisoner suffering a stab wound, a gunshot wound and head injuries was admitted to D.C. General Hospital in serious condition.
A third disturbance erupted at midday as Lorton officials were trying to feed 900 inmates left on the ball field. Guards fired more tear gas, but no injuries were reported.
Washington Deputy Mayor Thomas M. Downs said the disturbance was probably sparked by a report earlier this week from an independent prison consultant who categorized the facilities as overcrowded and near the breaking point for violence.