Authorities used caution in handling Kaohsiung prison crisis

02/12/2015 10:55 AM
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Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) Police used caution and restraint in their handling of a 14-hour crisis in a prison in southern Taiwan that ended early Thursday with the suicide of all six inmates who took the warden and another prison official hostage, according to a police official.

When negotiating with the hostage-takers, the police put the safety of the hostages first and used maximum sincerity, said Chen Chia-chin (陳家欽), commissioner of Kaohsiung City Police Department.

Based on these principles, Chen said, the police exercised restraint in their use of firearms. They refrained from shooting at the location where the six inmates were holding out and only fired suppressive and warning shots, he added.

There were two exchanges of fire during the crisis. The first time was when the inmates attempted to escape shortly after taking hostages and the second time was when they fired on the police for getting too close at around 3 a.m. Thursday.

On both occasions the police also opened fire. There were no injuries throughout the crisis and the only people killed were the six inmates, who were apparently led by Cheng Li-te (鄭立德), a local gang leader serving a sentence of 28.5 years for murder.

More shots were fired during the night, including some by the inmates who tried to shoot down a camera-carrying drone deployed by local media.

To help ensure the safety of Prison Warden Chen Shih-chih(陳世志)and Wang Shih-tsang (王世倉), the head guard of the prison, the authorities accepted some of the demands made by the hostage-takers, who were serving lengthy prison sentences from 25 years to life imprisonment for drug-related crimes, robbery and murder.

Hard liquor and palm-held TV sets were sent in overnight to the barricaded area as requested by the hostage-takers and the police had no immediate plans to storm the area, said Wu Sen-Chang (吳憲璋), director of the Agency of Corrections under the Ministry of Justice.

Wu expressed regret over the way the crisis ended.

A prosecutor at the scene said that the six inmates may have planned on taking their own lives if necessary when they first took prison officials hostage Wednesday afternoon.

They may have decided to take hostages and break out because they would have to spend the rest of their lives in prison otherwise, said Chen Chun-hsiu (陳俊秀), a senior prosecutor with the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office.

They asked for getaway vehicles but the demand was rejected.

The crisis ended at about 5:40 a.m., Thursday, after the six inmates took their own lives with the firearms they had taken from the prison armory, officials said.

The two hostages, including the prison warden, walked free unharmed.

Wang, the head guard, was the first to go free as he walked out of the compound at about 4 a.m., when sporadic gunshots were heard from inside the prison, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Ministry officials confirmed that at about 5:10 a.m., four of the inmates who took Wang and Warden Chen hostage shot themselves.

Twenty minutes later, the other two hostage-takers fired some shots at those who had committed suicide, apparently to make sure they were dead, before turning their guns on themselves, the officials said.

Chen walked out of the barricaded area alone and the crisis was declared over.

Chen and Wang had offered themselves up as hostage in place of others who were first held by the inmates.

(By Chen Ja-fo and Jay Chen)ENDITEM/J

Related stories:●Feb. 12: President demands prison reform in wake of hostage crisis●Feb. 12: Kaohsiung prison hostage crisis ends in suicide of six inmates

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