8 California guards, 7 inmates sent to hospital after Pelican Bay prison brawl

Pelican Bay State Prison, shown in a 2001 file photo.
Pelican Bay State Prison, shown in a 2001 file photo.
(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

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

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

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

“They all had ... 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.