A Death Row inmate who slashed his shackles and tried to escape with the help of his gun-toting wife became unglued when their plan went awry and begged her, “Shoot me. Shoot me,” authorities said Thursday.
Floyd Bennett Thornton Jr. died in a hail of gunfire Wednesday from his wife outside the gate and guards in watch towers, although it was unclear whose bullet killed him. Rebecca Thornton was shot and killed by guards.
“Eyewitnesses at the scene reported that she did shoot him,” prison spokeswoman Camilla Strongin said. “There are also witness accounts of him saying, ‘Shoot me. I’m sorry things went wrong. Shoot me. Shoot me.”’ Thornton’s slashed leather restraints and other evidence led officials to conclude that Rebecca Thornton was trying to break her husband out of the state prison in Florence when she opened fire.
The escape plot may have involved other inmates as well, as two of the other 15 death row inmates working in the prison garden with Thornton had partially cut shackles, Strongin said.
Inmates on the work crews are shackled with a short metal chain connected with leather straps on each ankle.
Officers were reviewing tapes of phone calls between Thornton and his wife as well as evidence taken from Rebecca Thornton’s apartment.
Investigators also found camping gear, two more handguns, ammunition and clothing in the car Rebecca Thornton had parked at the prison, about 65 miles southeast of Phoenix.
“We’re also searching his personal belongings to see if there’s any correspondence that they were working on this,” Strongin said. “There’s got to be some evidence somewhere.”
Rebecca Thornton fired a semiautomatic assault rifle at guards and then drew a handgun as her husband shed his shackles and ran toward the chain-link fence. Guards opened fire as both Thorntons neared the fence. Both were killed.