JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Twelve inmates at the Washington County Detention Center in Jonesborough face aggravated riot and aggravated assault charges for their involvement in an allegedly gang-related April 22 fight that left one detention officer needing medical treatment.

A total of 12 men allegedly popped the locks on their cells in “what was observed to be a coordinated and communicated effort” to enter into a common area, an affidavit from Investigator Joy Shoun of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) states.

A Washington County grand jury indicted 11 of the men last week and another has been charged.

Shoun wrote the involved inmates, allegedly Vice Lord members, had communicated together after an altercation the previous day with men from the Aryan Nations gang, “indicating a plan to retaliate against the Aryan Nation.”

The affidavit claims video shows the inmates engaged in “coordinated acts of violent conduct that created a disruption and substantial risk of serious bodily injury and property damage.”

Five of the inmates are also charged with escape. All 12 allegedly manipulated their cells’ locking mechanisms, “allowing the locked cells to be ‘popped’ open.”

WCSO Public Information Officer Susan Saylor, in response to emailed questions from News Channel 11, said the department has since determined how the locking mechanisms were manipulated. She said actions have been taken to change the locks’ structure to prevent a future occurrence.

The men are also charged with aggravated assault, ranging from one to four counts.

The affidavit states that a total of 12 inmates who “identify as members or associates of the Vice Lord Street Gang” made “unauthorized exit from their cells” around 7:20 p.m. on April 22. The men were not scheduled to be out for recreation at the time.

The men allegedly “maneuver(ed) around” past Detention Officer T. Chambers, who had ordered them back to their cells. Chambers radioed for aid and continued to try to gain control of the inmates, the affidavit says.

Other officers arrived as the men allegedly surrounded people from the other gang. Though they deployed pepper spray it was reportedly “ineffective” as they tried to get inmates to comply.

Within about six minutes, the officers had handcuffed and detained several of the inmates while the others had been secured within their assigned cells.

Saylor said officers are trained to recognize activity and behaviors related to gang activity.

“We are aware that gangs are present within the detention center and deal with issues as needs arise,” Saylor said.

The inmates charged with escape and riot include:

  • Thomas Levan, 23, Johnson City (also one count assault on a corrections officer).
  • Weston George, 33, Knoxville (two counts assault on a corrections officer).
  • Seth Buck, 23, Johnson City (three counts assault on a corrections officer).
  • James Arnold, 34, Erwin (one count assault on a corrections officer).
  • Philemon Alexander, 32, Memphis (three counts assault on a corrections officer).

Those charged with riot but not escape include:

  • Kaleb Wright, 24, Johnson City (three counts assault on a corrections officer).
  • Robert Rigsby, 32, Johnson City (four counts assault on a corrections officer).
  • Curtis Paul, 33, Johnson City (four counts assault on a corrections officer).
  • Cory Maupin, 35, Erwin (two counts assault on a corrections officer).

Shoun’s affidavit, written April 27, said only one inmate associated with the Aryan Nation had been identified by then.

The nine defendants are due to appear in Judge Lisa Rice’s Criminal Court on the charges Oct. 2.

Another man, Jonathon Bulla, was served recently with an indictment on the same charges. Austin Burchfield and Kurtis Lewis, also named in the indictment, will return to Washington County to face the charges once they complete sentences elsewhere, Saylor said. Information on their court dates is not available.

If convicted, the defendants could face sentences of 45-60 days for the aggravated riot charge and up to 11 months for escape if their other charge is a misdemeanor, or one to six years if it is a felony.