This day in history, September 13, 1971, State police and National Guardsmen storm New York’s Attica Prison to quell a prison revolt.
At 9:46 a.m. tear gas was dropped into the yard and New York State Police troopers and soldiers from the New York National Guard opened fire continuously for two minutes into the smoke.
Troopers were using shotguns, which led to the wounding and killing of hostages and inmates who were not resisting. Former prison officers were allowed to participate, a decision later called “inexcusable” by the commission established by Rockefeller to study the riot and the aftermath.
By the time the facility was retaken, nine hostages and 29 inmates had been killed. A tenth hostage died on October 9, 1972, of gunshot wounds received during the assault. The final death toll from the riot also included the officer fatally injured at the start of the riot and four inmates who were subject to vigilante killings. Nine hostages died from gunfire by state troopers and soldiers.
The New York State Special Commission on Attica wrote, “With the exception of Indian massacres in the late 19th century, the State Police assault which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War.”
The riot began on September 9 after prisoners demanded for political rights and better living conditions.
Roughly 1,000 of the 2,200 inmates rioted and seized control of the prison, taking 42 staff hostage.