A Holmesburg Guard Testifies About Terror Of Prison Riot

Posted: December 02, 1989

"There's gonna be blood on the walls, I'm not gonna go down."

Those chilling words, and others - more violent, more obscene - were recalled by Patricia Patete yesterday as she testified about the October uprising in I-block at Holmesburg Prison.

Long silences marked her recollections, as though she were trying to recreate the traumatic visions of the riot. Her voice cracked and tears fell.

Patete was recalling her shift on Oct. 28 as a guard at Holmesburg - the day inmates on her cellblock refused to "go down" to their cells and rioted instead.

"When I tried to get through the crowd and they started grabbing me, I knew I was in trouble," Patete said, describing how she tried to report to a central location in response to an emergency whistle in the prison.

Instead, she was blocked at the gate to I-block. At least three inmates jostled and fondled her as she pushed toward the gate.

She retreated and watched as inmates barricaded the gates, came out of the television room brandishing makeshift clubs, and stood on her desk yelling, ''Let's take hostages."

When the inmates began lighting fires and the cellblock got smoky, she testified, she and her partner took refuge in one of the inmate cells. Eventually, a group of inmates huddled around the two, Patete said, and helped them get to the gate.

"I had to push and fight my way to get out," she said, beginning to cry.

Patete was one of three correctional officers who testified yesterday against inmates charged with involvement in the riot at Holmesburg. The guards testified that they saw various inmates barricade the gate to I-block, set fires, and challenge prison officials to "come and get us."

The nine inmates are charged with rioting, criminal mischief, criminal conspiracy, reckless endangerment of another person, making terroristic threats, and simple assault.

Patete's testimony at first came between long pauses. She appeared frightened, though her voice was strong. She said that she has not been back to Holmesburg since the riot, and that she is seeing a psychologist. "I'm (mentally) injured now," she told one defense attorney who asked whether she had been hurt when the inmates grabbed her.

As defense attorneys questioned her, Patete's fear seemed to turn to anger. Her answers came more quickly - as well as more indignantly.

One of the defense lawyers asked Patete whether her clothing had been torn.

"I don't know if he ripped my clothes - what's the difference if he ripped my clothes? He grabbed me," she snapped back.

The hearing will continue Monday with more testimony from prison guards. David Ulrich, the third guard to testify yesterday, will be recalled to the stand. After Ulrich, who no longer works for the prisons, testified briefly yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Tariq Karim El-Shabazz told Municipal Judge Eric Lillian that Ulrich is a "difficult witness" whose memory needs to be "refreshed" with information from the statement he gave police right after the disturbance.

Defense attorneys objected to such memory "refreshing." Lillian ordered that copies of Ulrich's statement be given to defense lawyers so they could be prepared for cross-examination.

The inmates charged are:

Michael Allen, 32, who was awaiting trial on murder charges when the rioting occurred; Keith Anderson, 21, who was awaiting trial on robbery and firearms charges; Alfie Coates, 22, awaiting trial in two homicide cases; Kevin Everette, 26, awaiting sentencing on burglary, assault and weapons convictions; Tracey Fletcher, 24, awaiting trial on murder charges; Ronald Jackson, 18, awaiting sentencing on convictions of deviate sexual intercourse,

criminal conspiracy, indecent assault and drug charges; Brian Shorter, 22, convicted of robbery; Anthony Williams, 25, convicted of robbery; David Starling, 21, awaiting trial on charges of spousal sexual assault, rape, forced imprisonment, and making terroristic threats.

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