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9 Inmates Shot, One Killed in Riot

February 23, 2000

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. (AP) _ Guards shot nine inmates, killing one, in an attempt to quell a race riot Wednesday at a prison that houses some of California’s most dangerous criminals, a prison spokesman said.

The half-hour melee at Pelican Bay State Prison involved about 200 inmates using handmade weapons, Lt. Ben Grundy said. He did not know what sparked the violence.

``It was black and Hispanic inmates fighting,″ Grundy said. ``We’ve had racial incidents in the past.″

The fighting started in the yard of the highest security wing of the maximum security prison, which has 3,400 inmates, 1,200 of whom are in permanent lockdown conditions.

Inmates stabbed each other while guards used tear gas and pepper spray to try to control them before they began firing, Grundy said. One of the eight wounded inmates was in critical condition, he said, but he would not give details of the other inmates’ injuries.

The prison, which opened in 1989, is nestled on 270 acres of forest land 20 miles south of the Oregon state line. Many inmates are sent there when they are involved in violence at other prisons.

Guards were able to put down another riot at the prison last August by firing tear gas and rubber bullets. A guard suffered a fractured cheekbone, but no inmates were seriously hurt. In 1997, six inmates were killed in clashes between cellmates at the prison.

In an apparently unrelated event, two former guards have been charged with violating the civil rights of Pelican Bay inmates. A federal grand jury indictment made public Wednesday accuses E. Michael Powers and Jose Ramon Garcia of conspiring to arrange assaults on prisoners, one of them fatal.

Garcia is already serving a state prison sentence on similar charges. Another former Pelican Bay guard, David E. Lewis, was convicted of civil rights charges Feb. 14 for shooting a prisoner after a fight in 1996.

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