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Ga. inmate shoots, kills food service worker

The inmate fatally shot an Aramark food service employee while working in the Smith State Prison kitchen, Georgia DOC said

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A food service worker was shot dead by an inmate inside a Georgia state prison, Department of Corrections officials say.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/TNS

By Carrie Teegardin, Danny Robbins
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — In an extraordinary breach of security, a Georgia state prison inmate shot and killed an Aramark food service employee Sunday at Smith State Prison in Glennville.

Jaydrekus Hart shot the employee while working in the prison kitchen at 4:30 a.m., according to The Georgia Department of Corrections. The inmate then shot himself, the GDC said, and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“The weapon is in GDC custody at this time, and a complete and thorough investigation of what led up to this tragic incident will be carried out,” the GDC said in a statement.

Experts speculate the gun used to kill, Aureon Shavea, 24, was smuggled into the prison by drone or through a back gate without a metal detector

The GDC identified the worker who was killed as Aureon Shavea Grace, 24, of Statesboro. She died at the scene, according to Tattnall County Coroner Bradley Anderson.

GDC said Grace began working at Smith on Jan. 19.

A spokesperson for Aramark, Debbie Albert, declined to provide details other than a written statement expressing the company’s sadness. The GDC is one of several corrections organizations that contract with the Philadelphia -based company to provide food services.

“We are heartbroken over the loss of our colleague and our hearts and prayers go out to her family. This is a tragedy for all of us, and we are assisting the (GDC) in their investigation,” Albert, the company’s senior vice president for communications, wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Hart, 34, was serving 20 years for voluntary manslaughter out of Carroll County with a maximum release date of June 2043, the GDC said. According to published reports, he was convicted in the fatal shooting of a Villa Rica man at a Memorial Day party in 2013.

Georgia’s prisons are rife with violence and homicides, but prisoners having guns is virtually unheard of. Death certificate records dating back to 2017 show no other case where a prisoner fatally shot someone inside a GDC facility, the AJC determined.

Even correctional officers are not allowed to have guns in Georgia prisons.

The shooting caused the GDC to put all of its prisons on lockdown Sunday and cancel visitations. Roads leading into Smith State Prison were closed, and officers in tactical gear were stationed at the entrance.

Sunday’s incident is the second killing of a prison staff member within a year at Smith. In October, correctional officer Robert Clark , 42, was killed after being assaulted by a prisoner with a homemade weapon. Death certificate records show the 42-year-old suffered multiple stab wounds.

Smith is one of the most understaffed, violent and dysfunctional facilities in the state’s correctional system, and the reality that a firearm made its way inside the prison takes its problems to a new level. No information was available Sunday on how Hart may have obtained the gun. The weapon was a pistol, the coroner said.

Early last year, Smith’s then-warden, Brian Adams, was arrested and fired for being part of a massive contraband scheme operating out of the prison. Adams was charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, bribery, making or writing false statements and violating his oath as a public officer. Warrants for Adams’ arrest said he received U.S. currency through a pattern of racketeering activity associated with the contraband operation.

Prosecutors contend that the leader of the scheme was an inmate, Nathan Weekes, who also is alleged to have orchestrated three murders on the outside. One of those killed was 88-year-old Bobby Kicklighter, a beloved resident of Glennville, who was shot to death in his bed in the middle of the night. An investigation later determined that his death was a case of mistaken identity after Weekes allegedly ordered a hit on a correctional officer who had lived next door.

Smith is categorized as a close security prison because most inmates are considered risks for escape, violence or violating rules. Most Georgia prisons have been severely understaffed since the pandemic. That’s particular true at Smith, where about two-thirds of its correctional officer positions were unfilled as of January.

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