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California

Nearly 50 inmates riot at Donovan state prison in Otay Mesa

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A guard tower at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, where a riot erupted Friday that left 10 inmates injured, officials said.
(Howard Lipin / The San Diego-Union-Tribune file photo)

Ten inmates were injured — at least one seriously — when nearly 50 inmates rioted Friday morning at a state prison in Otay Mesa, state prison officials said.

Shortly before 9 a.m., several fights broke out in the Facility A yard at Robert J. Donovan Correctional Facility, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said in a news release.

The facility houses inmates classified as medium-security risks, and they were in the outdoor yard for their morning recreation.

Corrections officers quelled the riot with pepper spray after inmates ignored multiple requests to stop fighting, the department said.

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No lethal force was used to break up the melee, which took about three minutes to halt, prison Capt. Philip Bracamonte said.

Ten inmates were taken to hospitals. One suffered serious head injuries and was flown to a hospital by helicopter, the department said.

Three of the inmates sustained “major trauma,” and the rest had “minor trauma,” Patrick Walker, battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told OnScene TV.

None of the correctional officers were hurt. Staffers exposed to pepper spray were treated at the prison.

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Prison officials said multiple “inmate-manufactured weapons” — commonly known as shanks — had been found at the scene.

Facility A houses about 640 inmates, Bracamonte said, but he was not able to say how many were in the rec yard when the trouble started.

The captain said the investigation will include inmate interviews “to determine if there was any tension on the facility and what may have led up to this riot.”

The riot marks the second time the prison has been in the news this week. According to a federal complaint unsealed Wednesday, a prison employee has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling cellphones into the facility in exchange for about $13,000 in bribes.

In December, two inmates were stabbed when about two dozen inmates rioted in a maximum-security yard.

The 32-year-old prison houses about 3,800 inmates, who are classified at security levels of minimum, medium and maximum, and employs 1,850 people.

Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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