On Day 7 she was handcuffed in the watchtower at Arizona State
Prison Complex-Lewis, a sexual-assault victim and hostage expecting
to die at the hands of two felons. Then came word that her fellow
captive, Corrections Officer Jason Auch, would be set free. And this
is what went through her mind:
"I didn't get myself into this. I should be the one that's leaving. .
. I'm a female. Let me go, you know. . .
"But I accepted it," the corrections officer told investigators
later. "Auch's a good guy. He's young. He's got his life ahead of
him. And for some reason, God wanted me there. All I could remember
is: Please don't rush the tower. We can talk this out. I can come out
of here alive."
The woman did get out alive, set free when inmates Ricky
Wassenaar, 40, and Steven Coy, 39, surrendered. She survived the
longest prison hostage standoff in U.S. history. But it was a
harrowing, horrible 15 days. Her name is being withheld by The
Arizona Republic because she is a sexual-assault victim.
At one point in the tower, she recalled, Wassenaar got so mad at
authorities that "he took the shotgun and he looked at Auch and said,
'You're dying first. Are you ready to die?' And Auch said, 'Can I ask
one thing? . . . Shoot me in the head. Make it quick.' "
Somehow, Auch broke the tension by asking if he could just jump
off the tower, rather than take a bullet. Wassenaar burst into
The woman's first-person account of the ordeal was released
Thursday by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office as part of a
Department of Corrections report that includes graphic violence and
disturbing new revelations about prison security failures.
Even after a call for help went out, several officers were
slow in responding because they thought it was a drill.
The investigative report and transcripts were released by Maricopa
County Attorney Rick Romley after DOC officials spent days fighting
public records requests from the media, refusing to divulge exactly
how the saga began and what happened.
One example: The report notes that inmate medications are stored
in the yard tower for dispensing by nurses. On the first day of the
standoff, diabetic inmates began going into insulin shock because
they could not get their medication. Roommates in the locked-down
Morey Unit went on a rampage, yelling and banging on cell doors to
The report says two cell doors were kicked open in the process,
and one prisoner marched to the control room where he demanded
emergency care for his buddy. He also warned an officer that if help
didn't arrive, other prisoners "were going to pop their doors, come
over and kill him."
Another example: An officer assigned to monitor video cameras in
the Morey Unit told investigators he didn't notice anything on the
screens before the emergency radio call. "He said he wasn't paying
much attention at the time because he was attempting to complete
administrative paperwork," the report notes. Like others, the video
officer initially thought the first call for help signified a
practice session. Then a sergeant screamed into the radio, "This is
not a drill!"
Inmates' 'lucky day'
The escape attempt began with an assault in the prison kitchen,
where Wassenaar attempted to recruit about 15 other prisoners,
announcing, "This is our lucky day, guys. We are getting out of
here." He got no takers.
Wassenaar put on an officer's uniform, shaved, and conned his way
into the watchtower. According to the female officer, Auch opened the
gate at the sight of that uniform, and she asked who was coming
upstairs. "He goes, 'Oh, I don't know,' and I just kind of looked at
him because it didn't feel right."
Seconds later, Wassenaar slammed Auch's head with a long kitchen
stirring paddle, leaving him bloody and semiconscious, then beat the
female officer into submission.
Auch, whose interview transcript also was released, explained why
he advised Wassenaar on how to use weapons in the tower arsenal: "We
were always trained that if we were indeed in a hostage situation to
follow every order exactly . . . and I was not about ready to go
against his order and find out how far he wanted to go."
Coy, who had remained in the kitchen, raped a civilian female and
took another officer hostage. Then, as Coy fought with officers in
the prison yard, witnesses say Wassenaar fired up to 15 shots with a
In the administration building, Capt. Michael Forbeck only knew
that inmates held the tower and were blasting away. According to the
DOC report, Forbeck expected gun-wielding prisoners to rush the
compound at any minute. He had shotguns and ammunition distributed to
all available officers, sent two snipers to a rooftop, ordered a
prisonwide lockdown and called for support from Buckeye police and
The assault never came. Instead, Wassenaar made a phone call to
Capt. Barbara Savage: "Inmate Wassenaar first apologized for getting
her up so early in the morning and was very respectful," the report
says. "He told her that Officer Auch had a head injury and, although
the bleeding had stopped, he was going in and out of consciousness
and needed medical attention and he wanted to trade a lieutenant for
Officer Auch." When Savage declined, Wassenaar said, "Well, give me a
sergeant, give me a sergeant, Captain." Then he chuckled and
continued, "Well, you know we are getting pretty hungry down here.
I'd like a pizza delivered right to the door. In fact, make that two
pizzas and a helicopter."
As marksmen were deployed, Wassenaar's voice came over a prison
radio: "If your sniper is going to take us out, he better get us both
because your officers will be next. You will have two dead officers
In the tower, the female officer was living a correctional
officer's nightmare. Handcuffs cut into her wrists, she was beaten,
sexually abused, possibly drugged and repeatedly threatened with
Yet, in interview transcripts, she comes off as courageous,
thoughtful, humorous and at times heroic. The woman's account, given
to a DOC investigator just hours after her Feb. 1 release, began with
the words, "Let's get it over with."
She described how minutes turned into hours and then days. She
laughed telling how she spread her blood around the tower to make
sure there was plenty of DNA evidence.
The woman told Auch about her own escape plan: "I said I got one
of the cuffs loose. If they (inmates) both go to sleep, I can grab a
gun and shoot them both. . . . I said, 'Shall I go for it?' He's
like, 'No, don't.' I said, 'Well, we're dead already.' "
Later, as Auch was released, she gave him a message to her family:
"You tell 'em that I love 'em. . . . I've got their pictures right
next to my heart."
When Auch was released on Day 7, he told investigators how the
captors had nearly cut off the woman's little finger because
negotiators wouldn't meet a demand for food.
'A blaze of glory'
Inmate names are redacted from the crime report, but many of those
interviewed described Coy as a quiet follower and tattoo artist.
Wassenaar, by contrast, had the reputation of a mean, egotistical con
who served as jailhouse lawyer and sports bookie. Several said he
lost a recent appeal on his case and may have wanted to commit
"suicide by cop."
Except for one inmate who reported hearing Wassenaar whisper about
a "control room" and "killing an officer," no one acknowledged any
hint of an escape plot.
"If any inmate tells you that (he) knew this was coming, they're
full of (expletive)," d one prisoner noted. "But I'm telling you,
take out Rooster (Wassenaar) and Pony (Coy) will give up. Rooster is
a wild card. He's wound tight. Pony doesn't want to die, but Rooster
would want to go out in a blaze of glory."