Fight at Columbia, SC prison leads to death of inmate: SCDC

 Fight at Columbia, SC prison leads to death of inmate: SCDC


An inmate at a prison in Columbia died days after a fight, the South Carolina Department of Corrections said Tuesday.

James Wheeler, 52, was identified as the inmate who died, Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford told The State.

Wheeler was locked up at Broad River Correctional Institution, where he was involved in a fight on April 9, the Department of Corrections said in a news release.

He was one of two roommates fighting inside their cell at night, according to the release.

Wheeler suffered severe injuries to his face and head and was taken to an area hospital, where he died Monday, the Department of Corrections said.

No weapons were used in the fight, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain told The State.

An autopsy was scheduled Tuesday to determine Wheeler’s cause of death.

Information on a motive for the fight was not available, but charges are pending and the incident remains under investigation by the Department of Corrections.

Wheeler was serving a life sentence following a Nov. 22, 1990 conviction on a murder charge in Georgetown County court, prison records show.

He was also serving another 1-year sentence following a 2019 conviction for smuggling contraband, according to prison records.

During his incarceration with the Department of Corrections, Wheeler was disciplined nine times for possession of a weapon, prison records show. He was also punished over the years for drug infractions, being out of place, possession of a cellphone, failing to obey orders, destruction of property, and the smuggling contraband charge, according to prison records.

Wheeler, who had been locked up at Broad River since 2016, would have been eligible for parole on Sept. 18, 2021, prison records show.

The prison is on Broad River Road, near the junction with Interstate 20.

It is a male-only high-security facility “designed primarily to house violent offenders with longer sentences, and inmates who exhibit behavioral problems,” according to the Department of Corrections. It houses 1,318 inmates, according to the Department of Corrections.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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