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Family of slain guard settles suit

Relatives of Manuel Gonzalez, who was stabbed to death at the state prison in Chino, will receive $1.2million.

July 10, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

The family of a prison guard who was stabbed to death by an inmate at the state prison in Chino in 2005 will receive $1.2 million from the state in a settlement reached in federal court.

Manuel A. Gonzalez Jr., 43, a 16-year employee of the state prison system, was stabbed with a handmade weapon, allegedly by inmate Jon Christopher Blaylock. This was the first case of a guard being killed while on duty in a California prison in two decades.

The stabbing occurred in the reception area of the prison, where inmates are housed while awaiting transfers to other prisons. Gonzalez, who was married with six children, was not wearing a protective vest at the time of the attack.

Blaylock was serving a 75-year sentence for the attempted murder of a peace officer and had been incarcerated twice during the 1990s on attempted burglary convictions.

After the incident, Gonzalez's family discovered that Blaylock had a history of mental health problems and had assaulted prison staff and other prisoners.

Former Chino Warden Lori DiCarlo had written to state officials pleading to have Blaylock transferred to a higher-security prison in Vacaville, according to a memo disclosed by Gonzalez family lawyers.

The Gonzalez family filed a $100-million lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accusing state corrections department officials of "deliberate indifference." Former state Corrections Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman, DiCarlo and former state Corrections Secretary Jeanne Woodford were named in the suit.

The family alleged that prison system administrators contributed to Gonzalez's death by failing to issue him a stab-proof vest and by failing to properly house Blaylock. The prison had the vests, but they were being stored in a warehouse at the time of the stabbing, the lawsuit alleged.

Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the corrections department, said the family's contention that the department had failed to distribute the stab-proof vests was dismissed by the court before the settlement was reached Friday.

The final settlement centered on the classification of the inmate who attacked Gonzalez and where he was housed, Hidalgo said.

He said that after Gonzalez's death, the department changed the way that inmates such as Blaylock are classified. Inmates who are paroled and later return to prison -- and have a history of being separated from the general prison population because of violent behavior -- are assessed at an earlier point.

Hidalgo said each custodial staff member at the state's prisons was now outfitted with a stab-proof vest.

Blaylock has been charged in Gonzalez's death in San Bernardino County Superior Court. A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for later this year.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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