LAKE CITY, Fla. – Three Florida prison inmates and four others, including a Tampa woman, are charged with smuggling a gun into a prison so two of the inmates could shoot themselves and then sue the Corrections Department for reduced sentences.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported Tuesday that Columbia Correctional Institution inmates Kirk Cartwright and Deshandre Billups, who is from Tampa, were shot and wounded on March 22. The pair claimed they were praying in their cell when they were shot by an unknown person, the department said in a news release.
Investigators later found they managed with the help of relatives, including Billups’ mother Joanne Billups, 46, of Tampa, friends and a third inmate to get a .25-caliber handgun into the prison through the mail, with plans to shoot themselves and file lawsuits. The law enforcement department said the two regularly smuggled cellphones and drugs into the prison, which is located in Lake City.
Department spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the investigation is ongoing. The nature of the two inmates’ injuries and details about the shootings were not released.
“We are anticipating additional arrests and charges so we can’t provide more information now,” she said in an email.
A Corrections Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
Cartwright and Billups are facing five new felony charges, including possession of a firearm in a correctional facility and 10 counts of possession of contraband for the cellphones. Cartwright is already serving a life sentence for murder and Billups 20 years for armed robbery and armed burglary.
The third inmate, Tony Underwood, is charged with introducing and possessing contraband into a prison. He’s already doing a six-year sentence for burglary and grand theft.
The others charged include Cartwright’s girlfriend and sister, and Underwood’s girlfriend. The law enforcement department said they assisted in getting the cellphones and gun into the prison.