published Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Drone carrying contraband crashes at South Carolina prison

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A drone carrying cellphones, marijuana and other contraband into a South Carolina maximum-security prison never made it inside the 12-foot-high razor wire fence, and authorities said Wednesday they are looking for one of two people accused in connection with trying to sneak it in.

The search has been ongoing since April 21, when officials found a small, crashed drone in bushes outside the walls of Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, according to Corrections Department spokeswoman Stephanie Givens. At the site, Givens said that officers also found materials that inmates aren't supposed to have, including the phones, tobacco products, marijuana and synthetic marijuana. One person has been arrested.

Givens said officials aren't sure exactly where the drone would have gone if it made it over the wall. According to Givens, this is the first time officials know of a drone being used to smuggle banned items into a South Carolina prison. Last fall, four people in Georgia were accused of using a remote-controlled drone to fly tobacco and cellphones into a state prison there.

"The technology gets better and better, and we have to figure out how to fight that," Givens said.

Corrections officials have long said that the use of banned cellphones behind bars is a security threat to both agency officers and the public. In 2010, then-Corrections Capt. Robert Johnson was shot six times at his Sumter home in a hit police said was orchestrated by an inmate using a cellphone smuggled into prison. Johnson, who worked at Lee, survived and has since retired.

In the South Carolina done case, one person has been charged with drug possession and trying to give contraband materials to inmates. Court records listed no attorney for 28-year-old Brenton Lee Doyle, and Givens said that he has not been cooperative with investigators.

Authorities are seeking a second man seen on convenience store surveillance images buying some of the products later found with the crashed drone, Givens said.

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