Alumnus Endures Longest Prison Siege in U.S.

Wayne Scott shows a picture of the Walls Unit from 1974 during the prison siege
Wayne Scott shows a picture of the Walls Unit in 1974 during the prison siege.

Wayne Scott lived through the longest prison siege in U.S. history, and he had the bullet hole through his clothes to prove it.

Scott, retired Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a SHSU Alumnus, recalled the 1974 Carrasco Prison Siege in the Walls Unit in Huntsville as part of a Special Edition of Real Talk with/CJ. Scott was a Lieutenant in the state prison when three inmates took 11 civilian workers and four inmates hostage in the library. As the siege unfolded, Scott and a colleague came under fire from the captors as they approached the front door of the building. His fellow officer was shot in the foot; the bullet missed Wayne but hit his clothes.

"We were within 20 feet of the glass doors when two inmates jumped out and shot at us," Wayne recalled. "I participated in the Carrasco Prison Siege for 11-1/2 days. It’s a compelling story and it has so many ups and downs, it is hard to cover in just an hour."

In addition to sharing his story with criminal justice students, Wayne was one of three who survived the siege to participate in "Let Talk," a SHSU Honors Program event which featured small group discussions over dinner with renowned experts.

Wayne was returning from escorting inmates to the lower yard when shots rang out as he approached the only door to the Walls Unit Education Building. He ordered the inmates to clear the yard, made his way to the officer’s dining room to inform the staff to stay in place, and then went to the Warden’s Office to report the situation.

Inside the library, Heroin Kingpin Frederico Gomez Carrasco and two other inmates – Rudolfo Dominguez and Ignacio Cueves -- were holding 15 people hostage. Carrasco had feigned a leg injury to be assigned to Huntsville Unit, and a fellow inmate had smuggled in three guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in the center of a carved out ham and in a large can of peaches.

"There were no windows or exits, except for the double glass doors," said Scott. "They had barricaded the doors with filing cabinets, and they would rotate hostages in to sit on the barricades."

During the 11-day siege that hot July, Carrasco demanded handmade suits, handcuffs, special meals, walkie talkies, helmets, an armored vehicle and newspapers, all delivered by inmates he hand-picked. Carrasco’s attorney was brought in to negotiate, and Prison Chaplain Fr. Joseph O’Brien, for whom Carrasco worked, volunteered to serve a messenger and later became a hostage.

Scott brought some of the artifacts from the Texas Prison Museum, including Carrasco’s cane, a walkie talkie, and a protective helmet fashioned for Carrasco in the prison’s metal shop. He also brought photos from the days of the siege.

While prison officials, the FBI, and Texas Rangers developed options to end the siege – among the ideas were blowing up the brick walls with plastic explosive or using rolling shields to move in sniper teams -- Carrasco became increasingly agitated. One hostage was released after suffering a heart attack; a second woman feigned a heart attack and was kept in the hospital with guards so as not to alert Carrasco to the ploy. One of the hostage inmates escaped by jumping through the plate glass front doors, emerging alive but covered in blood from shattered glass.

On the 11th day, Carrasco told each hostage to call their loved ones to say goodbye. Carrasco emerged from the Walls Unit, encased in a "Trojan Horse" made of rolling blackboards lined with law books. He was surrounded inside by four hostages, and he handcuffed the other hostages together on the outside of the capsule. As they rounded the ramp, TDC employees, using fire hoses provided by the Huntsville Fire Department, blasted the device with high pressure hoses and, just before the capsule toppled one hose ruptured causing the Trojan Horse to right itself. Gunshots could then be heard from inside the crippled device.

Carrasco shot one hostage before turning the gun on himself. Dominguez shot a second hostage before taking a bullet from a member of the 13 man strike team when he was observed trying to use his pistol to shoot at the strike team. Cueves lay motionless under one of the hostages, but he was not injured. He was taken into custody and later executed for his role in the siege.

In the end, two women hostages were fatally wounded, and the chaplain was seriously injured. Then Gov. Dolph Briscoe, TDC Director W. J. Estelle, and Warden H. H. Husbands took heat over the outcome, but many in corrections believe it was a miracle that anyone survived.

"One of the things you learn when you start to work in prisons is that no hostages are ever released," Scott said.

The story was turned into a book called “Eleven Days in Hell” by William T. Harper.

While the prison siege stretched on, all corrections staff was required to stay on site, working 12 hour shifts guarding the other 2,000 inmates at the facility. Correctional officers were sleeping on floors and desks, and every time there was a commotion in the library, a throng of 100 reporters camping on the front lawn would storm the doors.

"You were never really off duty," Scott said.

Many correction officers vowed to quit after that day, but like Scott, continued with their careers. Scott worked in the state prison system for nearly 30 years, rising to the position of Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

During his career, Scott earned several awards and developed programs that received national recognition. Among these were four Awards of Excellence from the American Corrections Association for community service with Habitat for Humanity, for its computerized maintenance management system, for the Edmundo Mireles Criminal Justice Training Academy and for the Correctional Managed Health Care partnership with two universities.

Scott was named a Distinguished Alumni of Sam Houston State University in 2000, and the Texas Board of Criminal Justice honored his service by naming a prison facility after him upon his retirement in 2001.

Member of The Texas State University System