Emergency Declared After Rioting at Desert Prison

Times Staff Writer

A state of emergency was declared Friday at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County, where a prisoner was shot to death with a guard’s rifle and 25 correctional officers and 25 inmates were wounded during a series of riots the day before.

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the prison was on intensified lockdown, during which inmates are confined to their cells and civil proceedings, such as hearings, are suspended.

The prisoner who was shot to death with a semiautomatic rifle was identified Friday as Richard Albert Zamora, 33, who was serving an 18-year sentence imposed in Los Angeles County for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Zamora had previous convictions for auto theft, attempted robbery and witness intimidation, Thornton said.


Inmate Richard Daniel Jacob, 28, who was initially thought to have been shot in the head, was struck with a hard object, Thornton said.

Jacob was flown Thursday night to a hospital in San Diego -- about 100 miles to the west -- and was returned to his cell at the prison Friday.

Jacob was sentenced in Los Angeles County in 2002 to a four-year term for possession of a concealed firearm. He had served a previous sentence for assault with a deadly weapon.

In all, five inmates and 22 guards were taken to hospitals Thursday night, but all were released after treatment, Thornton said.


Officials said the melees began in 100-degree heat Thursday afternoon when an inmate in one of the prison yards used a handmade knife to stab a guard who was attempting to search him for contraband.

The violence quickly spread to two adjacent buildings, as inmates attacked correctional officers who rushed to assist their wounded colleague, Thornton said.

Officials said several dozen guards and at least that many inmates were involved.

Prisoners used weapons, including guards’ rifles and batons, broken broom handles, crutches, laundry carts and at least three handmade knives recovered after the violence subsided, Thornton said.


The circumstances surrounding Zamora’s shooting were not immediately clear, officials said.

The prison houses about 4,100 inmates, about 3,800 of them in maximum-security units.

The facilities in which the riots occurred are part of a maximum-security unit.