Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced Saturday that state officers were searching for two escapees from state prison and working to restore order after a week of turmoil with five state inmates killed since Sunday.
The Mississippi Department of Correction announced in a tweet that two inmates were reported missing from Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman early Saturday, identified as David May, 42, and Dillion Williams, 27.
May was convicted of aggravated assault in Harrison County. Williams was convicted of aggravated assault and burglary in Marshall County.
State Department of Public Safety and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officers "have been responding to restore order and apprehend the two escapees," Gov. Bryant tweeted. "I have directed the use of all necessary assets and personnel to achieve the result. Over 500 inmates have been moved to a more secure detention and a general lockdown continues."
"There is currently no fire or major disturbance" at the Penitentiary at Parchman, the MDOC tweeted. "There was a minor fire at Unit 30 earlier this week. That fire, set by an inmate, was immediately extinguished."
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety commented on the prison situation in a Facebook post.
"The Mississippi Highway Patrol has deployed state troopers along with the MHP Special Operation Group and Air Operations to assist the Mississippi Department of Corrections regarding the escaped inmates and prison situation at Parchman," the post read. "Agents with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics are also working closely with the Mississippi Analysis and Information Center to disseminate information concerning activities within the prison."
The escapes come after five inmates have been killed at state prisons since Sunday, including four deaths in major disturbances and one death unrelated to the disturbances, according to a Mississippi Department of Corrections press release.
Two of the four deaths during major disturbances occurred at Parchman, one at South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville, and one at Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility in Houston, Miss.
The fifth death at Parchman was unrelated to major disturbances.
The department has confirmed that some of the major disturbances were gang-related, the release said.
Commissioner Pelicia Hall said investigators have been working hard to determine what incited the violence.
Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton told the Clarion-Ledger Friday that "gangs are at war," at the state Penitentiary at Parchman amid five inmate deaths statewide in less than a week.
Denorris Howell, 36, who was killed after sustaining a neck injury during a fight with his cellmate early Friday morning at Parchman, was the latest inmate death, Burton said.
Two inmates were killed Thursday, Burton added, including Roosevelt Holliman, 32, who was fatally stabbed in what Burton said was a gang-related riot at Parchman, and Gregory Emary, 26, who was killed at Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility in Houston, Miss.
On Wednesday, Walter Gates, 25, was killed during a riot at Parchman, and Terrandance Dobbins, 40, was killed in a fight Sunday at South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville.