Altercation occurs over COVID testing between ICE detainees and corrections officers

Officials and activists tell two different stories as to what happened.

May 2, 2020, 11:44 AM

A group of detainees and corrections officers at a Massachusetts immigration detention center got into an altercation Friday night, but officials and activists tell different stories as to what happened.

The Bristol County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that 10 detainees at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center reported to medical personnel that they were experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 on Friday evening. However, the sheriff's office claimed that they did not want to get tested and destroyed a unit in the facility after being told they were required to do so.

The detainees allegedly "rushed violently" at the sheriff and officers, then "barricaded themselves inside the facility, ripped washing machines and pipes off the wall, broke windows and trashed the entire unit," according to the sheriff's office.

Three of the detainees were transported to the hospital, but are expected to recover, officials said. One was taken for a panic attack, another for a pre-existing medical condition and the third for a "medical incident after being removed from the [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] wing," they added. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office told ABC News he did not know the details of the medical incident.

Officials said there was more than $25,000 worth of damage caused and the detainees were placed in single cells pending disciplinary action, testing and criminal charges.

PHOTO: The Bristol County Sheriff's Office is seen here.
The Bristol County Sheriff's Office is seen here.

Activists said the sheriff's office was lying about people refusing to get tested and trashing a unit.

Annie Gonzalez Milliken, of the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network, told ABC News she spoke with a detainee who told her the opposite.

"What they said was that they were willing to be tested, in fact they wanted to be testing, but they did not want to be moved. They didn't want to deal with cross contamination in the medical unit" and didn't want to be placed in solitary confinement, Milliken said.

The detainees were told that they were going to be tested for the virus and needed to pack their bags, the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network said in a series of tweets addressing the incident.

This led those in the unit to believe they were going to be thrown into solitary confinement, according to the organization, because in the past when people in the detention center have been sick, they were told they'd be taken to a medical unit but instead were put in "solitary confinement and refused any medical care."

The detainees in the unit said they did not want to move and asked to be tested in their own unit, resulting in a "violent assault by correctional officers," according to the organization.

Milliken said the detainee, who she said suffers from asthma, told her the sheriff approached him violently, grabbed his arm and scratched him. She also said he told her that police sprayed people with pepper spray in their face.

Jonathan Darling, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said pepper spray was used to "control the situation" after he said the detainees barricaded themselves inside their unit and began destroying the property.

"At that point, it gets elevated to a higher risk and we have to take more action," Darling said. He added that "no violent assault" occurred, but a corrections response team and K9 team were called to the scene.

The detainees may face criminal charges after a review of the incident by the sheriff's office, according to Darling.

Milliken told ABC News that when she spoke to the detainee around 6:40 p.m., she had not heard any damage took place.

She said from the two people she spoke with and from what she heard from the other volunteers at the organization that the detainees told a consistent story about what happened inside.

She said that the detainee told her he was "intending to sit down, be non-violent and he was sharing that advice with the rest of the inmates."

"There was no indication there was any intention of destruction," she said.

What to know about Coronavirus:

Related Topics