St. Louis prisoners smash windows, light fires in third jail melee

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Inmates at a downtown St. Louis jail smashed windows, set fires and vandalized the facility in an hours-long melee Saturday.

It took hours for authorities to regain control of the City Justice Center, where chaos erupted on the fourth floor, according to reports. It was the third disturbance at the jail in recent weeks.

About 115 detainees trashed the jail, clogging toilets and flooding floors, a mayoral spokesman told the St. Louis Post-Disptach. About 65 were transferred to a different institution after the incident.

There are 633 people in custody at the jail but the disturbance was confined to the fourth floor, the paper said. It wasn’t clear what triggered the disturbance, which began around 3 a.m., or how the inmates were able to take control of their unit.

About four hours later, a group of inmates dressed in yellow shirts, mostly wearing masks, could be seen at shattered, smoke-scarred windows. They broke more windows and threw chairs and other items to the ground four stories below.

Flames could be seen just inside the windows and items appeared to have been set on fire before being thrown to the sidewalk below. They held up messages that appeared to be written on trays, mostly saying “Free” with various names on them.

It was at least the third incident at the jail, the Post-Dispatch said. Another occurred the last week of December and a second just days later. In those cases inmates had expressed concern about unsafe conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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