At least 40 Los Angeles County Jail inmates and 12 sheriff's deputies were injured Sunday when fire hoses, night sticks and flash grenades were used to control prisoners who refused to return to their cells after the noon meal.
Capt. Barry King, commander of the sheriff's jail division, said the confrontation had evidently been planned for several days by members of a street gang, confined to one cellblock, who had armed themselves with broom handles and other makeshift weapons.
The two-hour standoff was finally ended by members of the sheriff's Special Weapons Team (SWT), who entered the cellblock area and subdued the prisoners one by one.
"In getting this done," Deputy Bob Stoneman said, "about 40 inmates received various injuries--none of which required hospitalization. All were returned to their cells after treatment by paramedics and jail clinic personnel."
2 Deputies Taken to Hospital
Ten deputies suffered minor injuries. Two others were taken to County-USC Medical Center, where they were reported in good condition after treatment for severe bruises.
Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Finley said that the incident was the most serious event of its kind at the jail since a revolt in April, 1980, left 21 prisoners injured.
King said the nature of the inmates' weapons indicated there had been advance planning.
"They appear to have armed themselves," he said, "with things that must have been accumulated over several days, nothing you could pick up at random--things like drain plugs, drain caps, a makeshift knife, broom handles, cups of a caustic cleanser that could cause burns on the skin."
Most of the inmates involved in the disturbance, he said, were known members of the Crips street gang.
King said that an investigation of the disorder seemed to indicate that it was touched off by an incident between a jail deputy and an inmate as the men were marching into the dining hall for the noon meal. The inmate was improperly dressed and reportedly became hostile when a deputy ordered him to step out of line.
After the meal, Deputy Steve Fitzsimmons said, six prisoners refused to enter their cells and incited other inmates to join them in resistance.
Within 20 minutes, he said, only 15 of the 90 men in the cellblock had entered their cells. The others remained outside and armed themselves with makeshift weapons. Jail deputies called for help, and the SWT unit was dispatched along with paramedics and units of the county Fire Department.
Ignored Repeated Orders
When the inmates ignored repeated orders to return to their cells, Fitzsimmons said, fire hoses were used on the inmates. That failed to disperse the group, he said, as did the use of three so-called "flash-bang" grenades, which produce a bright flash and a loud noise. They were exploded at the entrance to the cellblock.
"No one was injured by the fire hose or by the diversionary devices (grenades)," Fitzsimmons said. "And there is absolutely no truth to a rumor that tear gas was used inside the jail. But when none of these things worked, the SWT team put away their firearms and donned riot gear, including helmets, face shields and batons.
"They then confronted the inmates one by one.
"Those who offered no resistance--about 15 men who had remained in their cells and taken no part in the confrontation--were handcuffed and removed. The others, about 65 of them, were subdued and handcuffed. This, of course, involved a series of altercations in which several people were hurt."
By 2:45 p.m., Fitzsimmons said, the entire cellblock had been cleared. The handcuffed inmates were taken to a recreation area on the roof of the jail, where they were treated for their injuries. Later in the day, he said, most were returned to their cells.
The jail was closed to visitors, and all other prisoners were confined to their cells during the incident. Visitors already inside were asked to leave. The jail, which houses 7,300 inmates, remained locked down for the rest of the day.