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Inmate died of gunshot wound during Arizona prison riot

March 6, 2018

SAN LUIS, Ariz. (AP) — Preliminary autopsy results show an inmate killed during a riot at a southern Arizona prison died from a gunshot wound, authorities said Monday.

Arizona Department of Corrections officials released more details on Thursday night’s melee at the State Prison Complex-Yuma in San Luis about 200 miles (321 kilometers) southwest of Phoenix that left 28 other inmates and 11 prison employees with minor or non-life-threatening injuries.

They said the death of 32-year-old inmate Adam J. Coppa remains under investigation.

According to online prison records, Coppa was sentenced to three years in 2017 after he was convicted of possession of dangerous drugs and other offenses. But because of credit for time served, he was scheduled for release this September.

His record also shows Coppa had two disciplinary infractions in the last two months. He refused a prison job assignment and was suspected of possessing or manufacturing an intoxicating substance.

Corrections officials said the disturbance involving about 600 inmates began shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday in the prison’s Cheyenne Unit with an inmate being escorted across the recreation yard who appeared to be under the influence.

The inmate, whose identity has not been released, attempted to assault the escorting officers and then ran away from them, according to prison officials who said the officers pursued him on the yard and that resulted in other officers being attacked.

Most of the inmates of the 1,124-bed, medium-security prison were outside on the yard at that time.

During the riot, some inmates threw rocks, lit mattresses on fire and some broke into the prison’s health care unit. The damage included broken windows, sinks, toilets, fire alarms and flooding.

Inmates attacked prison personnel using tables as shields when shotguns were deployed and the riot was brought under control by 9 p.m., authorities said.

The initial damage estimate is about $475,000 and repairs are being made.

Corrections officials transferred 44 inmates Sunday from Cheyenne to the maximum-custody Eyman complex in Florence.

Additional inmates have been placed in detention units, pending criminal investigations.

The prison has resumed normal operations at its other four units that had been locked down following the riot.

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