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Cleanup Begins After Prison Riot

April 27, 2000

LAMESA, Texas (AP) _ An inmate was apparently killed with a pickax stolen from a utility closet during a prison riot that took 300 guards to quell, officials said after touring the heavily damaged unit.

``I saw a lot of destruction,″ Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said Wednesday night, releasing new details about the rampage.

The Smith Unit, about 60 miles south of Lubbock, remained under lockdown today. In addition to the death, 31 inmates were injured, some critically.

About 300 black and Hispanic inmates were involved in the racially tinged riot Tuesday night at the minimum- to medium-security prison.

Many wielded garden tools during the brawl. The inmate who died, 20-year-old Frank Trejo, apparently was stabbed to death with a pickax stolen from a utility closet.

``It got very bad,″ Fitzgerald said. ``I talked to some of the officers and they were scared. The inmates were on a rampage.″

He said he believes Trejo, who was serving a term for burglary, is the first inmate to die in a Texas prison riot.

Several inmates tried to escape during the mayhem by taking off their clothes, throwing them over fences and trying to climb over the razor wire, Fitzgerald said. Many got caught there and suffered severe cuts.

Officials said the riot began with a fight between two inmates, black and Hispanic, in a dining hall. A fire also gutted the kitchen.

``Some white inmates jumped in the fight, but it was mostly the black and Hispanic inmates who were fighting,″ prison spokesman Larry Todd said.

State corrections officials said it took about 300 guards to subdue an equal number of inmates. The brawl began about 6:30 p.m. and was under control by midnight as guards used a pepper spray-like substance to subdue the inmates.

Officials are still trying to determine who killed Trejo.

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