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State Correction Officers Receiving Weapon Upgrades

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State correction officers are getting new guns, shortly after a Northampton County court was closed for three days following a courtroom shootout.

Last week, 37-year-old Willie Forrest wrestled a pistol away from a correctional officer and wounded him in the shoulder. Forrest was shot and killed by Northampton County Deputy Joe MacCall, who remains on administrative leave.

Department of Correction officers said they were going to be receiving new handguns and holsters before the Northampton shooting, but the incident highlighted the dangers of transporting prisoners. They said their new weapons and new holsters will help them stay safe.

More than 14,000 Department of Corrections officers will receive training in the next year, as the department upgrades from its old six-shooters to new semiautomatic 16-round Smith and Wesson M&P 40s, which come with sturdy holsters.

"We're one of the last agencies in North Carolina that adopted the semi-automatic pistol from the revolver," said instructor Max Matthews

Matthews is one of the state's lead trainers.

"With this new weapon, I think we'll be far more capable of providing protection to the citizens of North Carolina and also be safer themselves," he said.

The upgrade will cost the department more than $1 million, but it's a price officers said is well worth it.

The department said the new holsters will make it much more difficult for an inmate to steal an officer's weapon, and they also said the new guns are far more effective and safe than the old ones.

"All of our staff that have seen it are very happy that we're going this route," said Matthews.

All state DOC officers are expected to be trained before the end of 2007.


Dan Bowens, Reporter
Mark Simpson, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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