TAIPEI - The six Kaohsiung prison inmates who took prison wardens hostage Wednesday all committed suicide some 14 hours into their breakout attempt, leaving Warden Chen Shih-chih alive and well.
The bodies of the inmates were taken away from the prison in six ambulances, all of which circled the prison once as a signal of their "moving forward smoothly," which is the same procedure that applies to executed inmates on death row.
Their bodies will undergo autopsies in the near future, said the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office.
The six inmates were ringleader Cheng Li-de, 47; Chin Yi-ming,43; Jin Chu-sheng, 64; Huang Hsien-sheng, 50; Wei Liang-ying and Huang Zhu-yen - both of unknown age.
The incident began on Wednesday afternoon, when the group overcame their guard during a medical inspection and snatched the guard's keys before heading to the visitors' meeting room.
Advancing on a second guard with scissors and taking him hostage, the six men later seized a substitute civilian serviceman and demanded to see the warden.
Having learned of the incident, Deputy Warden Lai Cheng-jung and Chief Warden Wang Shih-tsang attempted to negotiate with the armed inmates while two armed police officers arrived on the scene. Lai and Wang then became hostages in exchange for the release of the original two.
The six broke into the prison's weapons cache and succeeded in retrieving 10 handguns and rifles.
Chen offered himself as a hostage in exchange for the release of his vice warden, and the swap occurred shortly after 4 p.m.
The inmates demanded the prison prepare a fully fueled vehicle for their escape; the prison denied the request and called the police as the inmates readied themselves to escape.
Volleys of Gunfire Exchanged at Side Door
Seeing the inmates' attempting to flee, the police advanced and fired a volley of shots to force the inmates back at a 15-meter range; the six then backed into the prison again.
The police contacted Huang's mother and asked her to plead with her son to give up his plan.
Also asked to talk to the inmates was former Kaohsiung City Councilor Lee Jung-tsung, who used to be a gang leader above Cheng.
Lee went into the prison and brought out a handwritten note from Cheng, claiming that the inmates would release the chief warden if the Agency of Corrections director read their demands out loud.
Former gangster Chang An-lo arrived at the prison, hoping he could be of some help in negotiating with the inmates, an offer the prison rejected.
Cheng then contacted the media, saying that the inmates had two choices for the authorities: the first was for Chang An-lo to bring in two bottles of kaoliang and they would leave willingly with him; the second was for the police to bring in the sorghum wine, and the six would commit suicide.
The police brought the wine, and Wang was released.
Gunshots rang out at dawn, as the inmates fired in protest against the media's drone cameras, and later shot at the police outside.
At 5:10 a.m., four of the prisoners shot themselves, with Cheng and Chin finishing them off afterwards with rifles. The remaining two inmates then shot themselves, and half an hour later, the warden walked out of the prison.
Chen said he was promised that the inmates would not harm him, and acknowledged that he had failed in negotiating with them. "I did not want any blood spilled," said Chen, who also said that the inmates had told him goodbye one by one before they committed suicide.