SC inmate ordered shootings from behind bars, sheriff says

Officers say the inmate told people to shoot up houses and cars.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina inmate is being accused of ordering shootings while behind bars at a state prison

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling announced the news Tuesday morning. Harvester Jackson, 27, was charged with accessory to attempted murder, accessory to discharging a firearm into a dwelling and accessory to arson. 

Loading ...

Jackson is serving a 10-year sentence at Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia for armed robbery and burglary. 

But Lott said Jackson uses his cell phone to orchestrate crimes from behind prison walls. Officers say back on on April 28, a woman said someone fired shots into her home around 1 a.m. 

The victim told investigators this was not the first time that had happened. She said Jackson is a former boyfriend, and had threatened to shoot up her home if she didn't provide information on another potential victim for him. When she said no, Lott said she would be a target. 

She said Jackson had someone shoot and set her car on fire in June of 2019.

Investigators said Jackson is tied to the shooting homes on August 12, 2018 and on August 27, 2019.  Deputies said a vehicle was also shot during the 2018 incident. In that case, the victim said she'd been in a relationship with Jackson. 

Officers said they also have evidence that Jackson made a threat to shoot up the home in one of those cases. 

Deputies say several phone numbers have been associated with Jackson and that he used Facebook Messenger to communicate.

Harvester Jackson
SC Dept. of Corrections

Lott said the investigation continues and they're working to arrest the people on the outside who were involved. But the sheriff said this underscores that cell phone jamming technology is needed now. 

"We have to stop that," he said. "We have the means to do it, we just need the approval." 

Stirling, who's testified numerous times to Congress about the problem of cell phones in prison, said so far, cell phone companies have been resistant to allowing prisons to block signals. 

Loading ...

“Contraband cell phones have proven to be the most dangerous weapon in prisons today," Stirling said.

He said he's seen tests conducted that show a cell phone signal can be jammed beginning at the door of a prison with no bleedover into the surrounding area. He said criminals are trying to use phones "every hour of every day." 

RELATED: Federal report shows promising results in cell phone jamming technology in prisons

According to the corrections department, Jackson has faced at least eight disciplinary sanctions since 2014 for attempting to or possessing a cellphone while in prison. He's been transferred to secure area of the prison, but Lott an Stirling said there's no guarantee he can't get another cell phone.

"It's frustrating," Lott said. 'We have to tell our victims don't give up on us."

Jackson was set to be released in March of 2021. "I don't think it's going to be that now," Lott said.