On June 15, 1979, Sergeant William Cross was murdered by inmates. The attack occurred in an extension of People’s Park, between the south entry to the dining hall and Big Red (see site plan). He was stabbed five times, one cutting his aorta. At the time, Sergeant Cross was the only officer in Washington State to be killed at the hands of inmates in living memory.
Cross’s death marked the beginning of the longest lockdown (nearly six months) in the history of Washington’s prisons.
Sergeant William Cross
Clearing People’s Park in front of the chapel
The Washington State Penitentiary was locked down after the murder of Sergeant Cross. Superintendent Spalding had two primary goals for the lockdown. The first was to conduct a thorough search of the entire institution, confiscate contraband, and remove excess inmate property beyond a limited number of items that could fit in a foot locker under an inmate’s bed. The second was to make physical changes to the prison so that when the lockdown ended the world inside the walls would be a different place. Bulldozers were brought in. Lifers’ Park, People’s Park, and almost every grassy area inside the main compound were buried under a vast slab of concrete. In Spalding’s words, the architectural message he wanted to convey was, “this is a close custody institution, and we’re going to control it.”