New York Troopers - History
Preserving the Past for Those Who Follow
 
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HOSTAGE RECOLLECTIONS

DEAN WRIGHT

Dean Wright, one of the prison employees taken hostage heard the gas being dropped and the shooting start. “I was scared to death - I said the Lord's Prayer to give me strength to die like a man.'"

We hostages spent most of the previous four days blindfolded with our hands and feet bound, soaked with rain, mud and human filth.

"There were two inmates behind me, one had what I thought was a knife to my throat," We were kept in a circle, blindfolded, with our hands and feet tied. "I heard a bullet go by and hit one of the men behind me," Wright said. "It sounded like you took a pumpkin and smashed it on a blacktop road. When he went down, I went down with him.

"All you could hear was shooting and screaming. The first thing I saw when they turned me over, about six inches from my face, was the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun. Then somebody yelled, 'He's one of ours! He's one of ours!' and he left."

JOHN STOCKHOLM

John Stockholm was a 24-year-old father of two when he was chosen as one of the eight hostages to be taken up on the catwalks overlooking D Yard and held with a knife to his throat in an effort to ward off the state's attack.

"They asked if I wanted to have a cigarette, because I was going to die 'like the rest of you pigs." I took the cigarette.

Still blindfolded, Stockholm felt his appointed "executioner" fall off his back after the shooting began. He also hit the deck, and stayed there until the shooting stopped.

"You could hear the sounds and the smell of pain and death," Stockholm said. "They've haunted me for more than 30 years. I hear them and smell them in my nightmares."

Mike Smith
A guard who was taken hostage and subsequently wounded by police fire Mike Smith was 22 years old and married with one child at the time of the Attica uprising. He had not finished college and had taken a job at a local prison while deciding what to do with his life, and had been transferred to Attica only six months before the riot. For Smith, as for many people in this upstate area, employment at Attica represented one of the best and highest-paying jobs in the vicinity. Despite the racial tensions at Attica, Smith maintained cordial relations with inmates. Nonetheless, during the riot, Smith was one of the guards taken hostage, blindfolded, dressed in prison garb, and held in the Yard for four days. When the police overtook the prison, he was shot four times in the gut by an automatic weapon. Smith spent the following two-and-a-half years in a difficult recovery. He underwent a coloscopy, his weight dropped from 218 to 121 pounds, and he had to learn how to walk again. Attica State Prison declared him "physically incapable" of performing his duties and gave him partial disability retirement. Smith subsequently changed careers, becoming a sales engineer for Ground Water System. But more recently, he took on a new role: that of political agitator. After appearing on a radio program with fellow hostages to talk about Attica, he helped form the Forgotten Victims of Attica. They are currently lobbying Governor Pataki for compensation, counseling, and an apology from the State.

FORGOTTEN VICTIMS

Those civilian and guard survivors were directed to take six months off and continued to receive paychecks identical to their regular pay. The survivors and families were unaware that by cashing the checks, they were forfeiting their right to sue the state, because the state had filed workmen's compensation claims on their behalf, without their knowledge or approval.

State officials urged widows to accept "benefits" as meager as $230 per month that was the same as if her husband had died a natural death, rather than being shot to death by his employer. Only Lynda Jones, the widow of slain prison clerk Herb Jones, refused the state's offer and retained the right to sue. She won $1 million more than a decade later.

Simmering frustrations among the survivors and families of the hostages finally peaked in January, 2000, when New York State paid $8 million to prisoners wounded during the retaking and tortured in the aftermath, and another $4 million to their attorneys, ending more than a quarter-century of litigation.

A list was compiled of what were considered the myths and facts surrounding the bloodiest action by an American government on U.S. soil since the Civil War.

Shortly after the inmate awards, a group made up of the widows of New York State Corrections Department employees killed during the 1971 riot at the prison, surviving hostages and family members formed The Forgotten Victims of Attica. Members weren’t resentful of the inmates, but of the state's refusal to acknowledge that its actions and guidance was financially and emotionally devastating to survivors and their families at a time that they were most vulnerable. A "Five-Point Plan for Justice" was formulated.
 
  • An apology from the New York State acknowledging culpability for the deaths of hostages and physical injuries to its employees.
  • Open state records on the riot and its aftermath previously sealed by Governor Hugh Carey.
  • Provide counseling for survivors and families.
  • Approval for a memorial service outside Attica Prison each September 13.
  • Reparations to group members. Wright pointed to the $125,000 awarded to prisoner Frank "Big Black" Smith, who testified that he was severely beaten and threatened with castration during the riot's aftermath.
  • The state legislature passed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Dale Volker (R-Depew) that would have given $50,000 each to the families of the 11 employees killed at Attica. The group refused the offer, due to both the amount and the state's refusal to admit any wrongdoing or compensate the survivors and their families.

    INMATES KILLED

    • Elliot "L.D." Barkley
    • Sam Melville
    • Carlos Prescott Garcia
    • Raymond Rivera
    • Santiago Santos
    • Rafael Vazquez
    • Jose Mentijo

    PRISON EMPLOYEES KILLED

    Edward T. Cunningham, born June 17, 1919, Correction Sergeant

    • John J. D'Arcangelo, born November 11, 1947, Correction Officer
    • Elmer G. Hardie, born March 16, 1913, Industrial Foreman
    • Herbert W. Jones Jr., born January 3, 1945, Senior Account Clerk
    • Richard J. Lewis, born August 1, 1929, Correction Officer
    • John G. Monteleone, born November 21, 1929, Industrial Foreman
    • William E. Quinn, born March 25, 1943, Correction Officer
    • Carl W. Valone, born June 11, 1927, Correction Officer
    • Elon Werner, born September 16, 1907, Principal Account Clerk
    • Ronald D. Werner, born December 3, 1936, Correction Officer, nephew of Elon Werner
    • Harrison W. Whalen, born July 9, 1934, Correction Officer

    Attica State by John Lennon

    The following are the lyrics of the song Attica State by John Lennon written in 1972:

    What a waste of human power, What a waste of human lives. Shoot the prisoners in the towers, Forty-three poor widowed wives.

    Media blames it on the prisoners, But the prisoners did not kill. Rockefeller pulled the trigger, That is what the people feel.

    Free the prisoners, jail the judges, Free all prisoners everywhere. All they want is truth and justice, All they need is love and care.

    They all live in suffocation, Let's not watch them die in sorrow. Now's the time for revolution, Give them all a chance to grow.

    Come together join the movement, Take a stand for human rights. Fear and hatred clouds our judgment, Free us all

    ATTICA RIOT FACTS
    Except for William Quinn, who died of injuries inflicted by inmates during the initial uprising on Sept. 9, all fatalities among the hostages were as a result of state gunfire during the retaking on Sept. 13, 1971.
     

    No hostage was castrated.

    After the initial uprising, no hostage was harmed by inmates up until the time of the retaking.

    Death benefits received by widows were no different than had their husbands died a natural death.

    Surviving correction officers and civilian employees held hostage were given time off with pay, not knowing the paychecks they received were funded by workmen's compensation.

    All but one of these families unknowingly lost their right to sue the State of New York by accepting death benefits or workers compensation funds.

    No one has ever been held responsible for what happened at Attica or its aftermath.

     

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