8 Calif. COs, 7 inmates sent to hospital after attack

Correctional officers fired 19 bullets from semi-automatic rifles and three hard foam rounds to break up the melee

By Don Thompson 
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eight California prison guards and seven inmates were taken to hospitals after a fight between two inmates quickly raged out of control Wednesday and required live ammunition to stop, corrections officials said.

Officers fired 19 bullets from semi-automatic rifles and three hard foam rounds to break up the melee at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border.

Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison (Photo/Calif. DOC)

Five of the seven injured inmates suffered gunshot wounds. One was expected to be airlifted to a different hospital for a higher level of care, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She said she didn't know the conditions of the others.

Six of the eight injured guards were treated and released. Two are hospitalized with what officials called significant injuries but were expected to be released soon. One of those officers will eventually need surgery for an injured shoulder, Thornton said.

"They all had like facial injuries, bumps, bruises, contusions," she said. "It's a frightening incident. It's frightening to have inmates just swarm you ... to overwhelm you and attack you."

Several hundred of the prison's roughly 2,000 high-security inmates were in an exercise yard when two began fighting, she said. The melee began when the two prisoners refused to break up their fistfight despite guards' use of batons and pepper spray.

Large groups of prisoners then ran toward the fight and attacked the guards.

"We're encouraged that the officers weren't injured more than they were," Thornton said.

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