Racist Prison Riot on Hitler's Birthday

Extremist Violence
Ken Shatto
Ken Shatto, president of a prison guards' union, discussed seven guards injured during a prison race riot in Colorado.

A lunchtime celebration of Adolf Hitler's birthday by a white supremacist prison gang sparked a bloody prison riot involving more than 200 inmates at the U.S. penitentiary in Florence, Colo.

According to prison officials, the April 20 riot began in a prison recreational yard around 12:30 p.m. when members of the gang began taunting black inmates with racial slurs and references to Hitler.

"They were acting provocatively on Hitler's birthday," Troy Eid, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, told the Rocky Mountain News.

The violence quickly escalated. Inmates began hurling rocks and attacking each other using improvised metal, wood and plastic weapons.

Prison guards fired nearly 400 rounds to quell the melee, exhausting their supply of both lethal and non-lethal ammunition. Two inmates — one white and one black — were killed by gunshots. Five other inmates were hospitalized with stabbing or gunshot wounds.

The Pueblo Chieftain reported that the Aryan Brotherhood was the gang responsible for starting the riot, although prison officials are refusing to confirm or deny that detail.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) told the Rocky Mountain News that "staffing shortages and security shortfalls" accounted for the violence. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, he wrote: "The incident this weekend demonstrates a continued pattern of violence that has been escalating over several years on the Florence campus, not only at the [U.S. penitentiary], but at the Supermax as well."

The Florence Federal Correctional Complex includes a prison camp, a medium-security facility, a high-security U.S. penitentiary and a "Supermax" maximum-security prison that contains the country's most violent offenders and terrorists. The riot took place at the high-security U.S. penitentiary, which houses roughly 1,000 inmates.

A spokesman for Salazar's office said the Federal Bureau of Prisons is compiling a report on the riot. The report is scheduled for release this fall.