SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A fight between two California prisoners quickly raged out of hand on Wednesday and forced prison guards to open fire to stop a melee that eight guards and seven prisoners in hospitals, corrections officials said.
Guards in three gun towers fired 19 bullets from semi-automatic rifles and three hard foam rounds to stop large groups of prisoners from the attacks of the guards that were using pepper spray and batons to break up a fist fight at high-security Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border.
Five of the seven injured inmates suffered gunshot wounds. Was airlifted to another hospital for a higher level of care, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Three prisoners who were shot were admitted to hospitals and two were taken to prison, ” she said.
All of the injured guards were treated and released. One of the agents will eventually need surgery for an injured shoulder, Thornton said.
“They all had as facial injuries, bumps, bruises, contusions,” she said. “It’s a terrifying incident. It is frightening to inmates just swarm you … to you and attack you.”
Several hundred of the prison’s approximately 2,000 high-security prisoners in an exercise yard when two inmates started fighting, ” she said. They would not stop, and the other prisoners ran in the direction of the fight.
“They ran in the direction of the incident from different areas of the yard and just rushed the agents,” Thornton said. “They overwhelmed them. Overwhelmed is the word that I heard again and again.”
Two inmate weapons were found. She appeared to be makeshift weapons prisoners picked up during the fight, Thornton said, and officials still don’t know if they were used on the officers.
“One of them may have suffered a stab wound, but we have no confirmation on that yet,” she said.
Ninety-seven prisoners were isolated in a disciplinary house after the attack.
“As the investigation progresses, we’ll have a better idea of how many prisoners were actually involved. But the fact that the 97 prisoners were moved she had a certain level of commitment,” Thornton said.
The researchers do not yet know whether it is a planned attack on prison guards or if it is gang-related, ” she said.
Counselors were sent to the prison to help employees recover.
“We are encouraged that the officers were not injured more than they were,” Thornton said.