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Drug smuggling drone found outside South Carolina prison

On July 31, Reuters reported that a drone, laden with drugs, cigarettes, and cell phones, crashed outside of a South Carolina prison. The incident has been under investigation since the downed drone was discovered back in April, although the news was not released until last Wednesday.

The drone was found outside the 12-foot razor wire fence of the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, where The Daily Beast reported that it either malfunctioned or crashed. South Carolina Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stephanie Givens would not disclose where around the prison the drone was found and said "officials aren’t sure exactly where the drone would have gone if it had made it over the wall."

Officials did, however, determine who they believe is responsible for the drone -- Brenton Lee Doyle. According to the LA Times, when Doyle, 28, was arrested on June 12 he was also found to have roofies -- flunitrazopam -- on his person and so he was charged with promoting prison contraband and also with drug possession.

Police are still searching for another suspect who was captured on convenient store surveillance footage purchasing some of the items that were found in the downed drug drone. The unnamed suspect is a white male last seen wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. Law enforcement officials are offering a reward of up to $1,000 for tips that lead to the capture of the second suspect.

Although this is not the first time ever that police have intercepted an attempt to use a drone for smuggling contraband, it is the first such incident in South Carolina prisons. Traditionally, cell phones are thrown over prison walls. Givens said, "As technology gets more advanced, we have to find more advanced ways to fight that."

The first recorded effort to use drones for prison drug smuggling operations was last year in Georgia, when four people were accused of operating a remote-control drone to fly tobacco and cell phones into a correctional facility.

Keri Blakinger is a freelance writer and prison reform activist. Follow her on Twitter @keribla or visit her blog for a steady stream of prison reform stories.

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