Female Hostage Freed From Arizona Prison Tower; Inmates Surrender


BUCKEYE, Ariz. (AP) -- One of the longest U.S. prison hostage standoffs in decades ended Sunday when a corrections officer was released from the guard tower where a pair of inmates had held her for two weeks, a Corrections Department spokeswoman said.

The inmates surrendered, corrections spokeswoman Cam Hunter said.

Hunter said the corrections officer, whose name was not released, was receiving medical attention.

No information was immediately released on what led to the surrender at the medium- to high-security Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, but in one concession, one of the inmates was allowed to give an interview to a radio station on Thursday.

"It was initially an escape attempt. We were on our way out. This was a stopping point to get some arms, firearms, to get out of here. Unfortunately, the plan went bad," one of the inmates, Ricky Wassenaar, told KTAR-AM radio in an exclusive interview, which the station said was granted in exchange for the woman's release.

Negotiators had regular contact with inmates throughout the standoff, and at times had seen the guard or talked to her by telephone. She and a male officer were taken hostage Jan. 18, but the man was released Jan. 24.

Prison officials released few details during the standoff, but on Sunday identified the hostage-takers as Wassenaar, 40, and Steven Coy, 39, and released information on how they took over the tower, which was stocked with weapons.

Wassenaar and Coy were armed with makeshift knives when they were released from their cells to report for duty as part of a kitchen work crew. Wassenaar approached a corrections officer and forced him to turn over his uniform and equipment, including handcuffs, the department said.

Coy overcame another officer, restraining him in some manner, and bound a Corrections Department kitchen worker with an electrical cord.

Wassenaar then directed the rest of the inmate work crew into a storage area and locked the door behind them, corrections officials said. He then shaved, put on the officer's uniform and headed for the tower.

One of the two officers in the tower let Wassenaar in after the inmate buzzed the gate near the tower, according to the Corrections Department. The inmate then overcame the guards and took them hostage.

Coy injured another officer as he was chased toward the tower. He reached the building after Wassenaar opened fire.

Wassenaar is serving 28 years for armed robbery and assault.

Coy, who is serving a life sentence, has spent the better part of two decades in Arizona prisons. His offenses include theft, burglary, criminal damage and drug possession. He was sentenced to life after a 1993 crime spree in Tucson that included armed robbery, aggravated assault and rape.

Both Coy and Wassenaar have committed numerous infractions while in prison, officials said.

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