Otay Prison Guard to Stay on Job : Official Says Killing of Inmate 'Was Clearly Justified'

Times Staff Writer

The prison guard who killed an inmate at the Otay Mesa state prison Monday will return to work Thursday after her regular days off, a prison spokeswoman said.

Lt. Sandra O'Neill said Monday that the guard, whose name is being withheld pending the completion of an investigation, would be put on paid administrative leave. On Tuesday, O'Neill said that she had been mistaken and had assumed that the guard would be given a few days off.

Shooting 'Clearly Justified'

Prison Supt. John Ratelle said the guard will not be put on administrative leave because it is clear that she acted properly. "The Department of Corrections doesn't put people on administrative leave for doing their job," he said. "In my mind, (the shooting) was clearly justified."

The guard shot the inmate, Gerald Wayne Cork, 33, of Oakland, as Cork was about to intervene in a scuffle between two other inmates that another guard was trying to break up. The tower guard who shot Cork issued several verbal warnings before firing one round at him.

Robert Gore, an assistant director of the state Department of Corrections, said the department does not have a rigid policy about whether guards involved in a shooting are put on leave. "It's more on a case-by-case basis. When we have an officer involved in a case like this, it depends on the circumstances, and in this case the circumstances are pretty clear-cut," he said.

Returning to Normal

Meanwhile, the prison, officially known as the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Rock Mountain, was scheduled to return to normal operation at 8 a.m. today. The entire prison was locked down in the wake of Monday's shooting, meaning that all prisoners were confined to their cells.

Normally, inmates at the medium-security prison are allowed to leave their cells at will between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Half of the functioning part of the prison was returned to normal at 8 a.m. Tuesday, O'Neill said, and the other half--where the shooting occurred--will return to normal today.

The shooting occurred exactly three weeks after the prison opened. Two of the prison's four sectors have opened, and the other two will be filled gradually. Eventually, the prison population will exceed its listed capacity of 2,200, prison officials said.

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