Correctional Officer Larry Dotson had been working at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville for just over two years when his worst nightmare came true. He became one of 13 correctional officers taken hostage by inmates during an 11-day disturbance--the longest prison siege in the nation's history in which lives were lost. The following is his account of the harrowing ordeal as told to Tessa Unwin.
On April 11, 1993, I was working as a relief officer in cellblock L-3, a housing area that had 105 inmates that day. The assigned officer, Conrad Nagle, and I had discussed earlier that this day shouldn't be very busy. Our block didn't have recreation, and all we had to do was close the dayroom after we escorted the inmates to lunch. At three o'clock I was closing up the dayroom in L-3, getting ready for the head count, when Conrad alerted me to a fight in the corridor. I secured the dayroom and gave him my keys. As I was waiting for the corridor officer to let me out, I could see directly across into the L-6 housing area. The activity was picking up. Inmates from L-6 had been out to recreation, and I could see them moving around freely, with several fights breaking out.
I had been working at Lucasville for about 26 months and had been involved in breaking up several fights. But as soon as I stepped out into that corridor I knew that this was not a routine disturbance. I saw an officer running out of the L-6 unit with two inmates running after him. They saw me and backed off, but when I went in to L-6, I saw John Kemper lying in a pool of blood. I realized there was nothing I could do for him, so I tried to defend myself and I was hit.
I was hit in the left side of the head with an object--a broom handle or a baton. I remember trying to defend myself and getting kicked, beaten and punched. I gave it everything I had until I lost consciousness. The next thing I remember, the inmates were bringing me into L-6 again where they locked me in the shower.
I sat there for a few minutes, trying to compose myself. I looked at my uniform and saw that it was saturated with blood. The water was still on--this was before the administration had turned it off--so I wet my handkerchief and tried to clean myself up. I knew I was hurt pretty badly because I had several head wounds. My glasses were gone. Still, I was relieved that my injuries weren't more serious, and I started to get a feel for what was going on around me. There was an inmate standing on the console, and I can remember trying to get him to let me out. He wouldn't let me out, which was probably good because it was not safe.
About 20 minutes after the disturbance began, the inmates had full control of the facility's L-side, and they brought the rest of the hostages--12 correctional officers--into the L-6 unit. They put them into the shower across from me, and then they came and got me. I can remember this very vividly. I remember looking around at my co-workers and noting their condition. In particular, I remember how Bob Schroeder looked. He has blond hair, and blood from a serious head wound had saturated his forehead and his hair. I also remember Bob Vallandingham complaining about his ribs and shoulders hurting. Conrad Nagle had a major head wound.
The inmates told us to remain silent. Meanwhile, I was trying to observe all the things going on around me. I can still see this image in my mind. Conrad's head wound was really bulging, and he was telling one of the inmates, "Dotson's hurt really bad, we need to try to get some care for him." At that point, several inmates came into the shower, handcuffed us and took all of our personal belongings. They took my wedding band, watch, keys, wallet and badge.
We were then taken individually to the inmate infirmary. I remember one inmate patching me up and telling me I had a bad cut over my left eye, one over my right eye and numerous cuts on my head. At that point I realized the severity of things. The inmates had told us...