Nineteen inmates were injured, three of them seriously, in what sheriff’s deputies said was a racially motivated riot Wednesday night at the County Jail in El Cajon.
“We have no deputies hurt,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Lynch said. “We consider this a major riot.”
The half-hour fight broke out about 8:15 p.m. in cellblock 7A, which has two dozen cells with seven to nine men in each cell.
Deputies said there were 120 to 140 men in a common area when the fighting broke out.
The most seriously injured inmate was stabbed in the neck, Capt. Tom Jensen of the El Cajon Fire Department said. That inmate and another, who was badly beaten, were taken by Life Flight helicopter to UC San Diego Medical Center.
A third inmate was taken by paramedics to Sharp Memorial Hospital after falling 12 to 14 feet from a balcony within the jail, officials said.
Seven other inmates were taken to hospitals for treatment of cuts and bruises. Nine were treated at the scene by paramedics and jail personnel.
“There’s racial tension in the streets and those people come to the jail,” Jail Cmdr. Benny L. McLaughlin said.
He also said the crowding contributes to the tension: “It’s ridiculous. In some of the cells, in order for the men to lay down, they literally have to wrap themselves around the toilet.”
Officials said they retained control of the jail throughout the disturbance and no hostages were taken.
Some inmates will be transferred to other county facilities, deputies said, because of extensive damage to beds and furniture in the cellblock.
After the fight, deputies found broom handles, knives and chains that the inmates used as weapons.
The capacity of the El Cajon jail is 120. There were 780 inmates there Wednesday night.