LOCAL : Racial Roots in Youth Camp Brawl

From Times Staff and wire service reports

A dispute over a can of spray paint apparently ignited racial tensions and led to a brawl at the Fenner Canyon Youth Conservation Camp near Palmdale that resulted in 10 inmates being hospitalized, authorities said today.

About 32 inmates, mostly Latinos and Asians, who were involved in the Thursday night melee at the minimum security camp were transferred this morning to a higher security youth training facility in Chino, said Simon Cabrera, assistant superintendent at Fenner.

Six of the camp’s seven staff members rushed into the television room of the camp’s dormitory and used Mace to break up the fight about 10 minutes after it started at 8:30 p.m., Cabrera said. Eight Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were also called to the scene.

Ten of the inmates were taken to area hospitals, and all were released after treatment for bruises and cuts. No staff members at the camp were hurt.

Cabrera said the brawl appears to have been rooted in an incident earlier this week when staff members searched the dorm for a missing can of spray paint. Inmates took the can so they could spray paint into rags and sniff it to get high, he said.


Cabrera said a Latino inmate who had the can apparently hid it under an Asian inmate’s bunk. Asians and Latinos had verbal exchanges, and on Thursday night two Asians assaulted a Latino. The Latino then called for help, and a brawl between nine Asians and 15 Latinos began with a few black and white inmates joining in.