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Police quell riot at Tijuana prison

The uprising is the second in four days. Protesters outside pelt authorities with rocks.

September 18, 2008|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

TIJUANA — Police stormed a troubled state prison in this border city Wednesday after violence erupted for the second time in four days.

Baja California state authorities regained control of La Mesa State Penitentiary within hours and said there were no fatalities. But rumors of deaths and injuries in the prison spurred continued turmoil outside the walls, where a crowd of hundreds had gathered, pelting authorities with rocks and blocking ambulances as they tried to leave.

The protesters, most of whom have relatives at La Mesa, had kept vigil since a riot Sunday left three inmates dead. They have accused authorities of lying about the number of deaths and injuries in the Sunday melee, and those accusations continued after Wednesday's outbreak.

It was unclear what caused the new uprising, which began in the afternoon. Some inmates tried unsuccessfully to break through a prison wall, authorities said.

Local, state and federal police officers stormed the prison, firing more than 1,000 rounds of what authorities said were rubber bullets. At least seven people, including police officers, were taken away in ambulances as protesters tried to block the vehicles.

Volleys of rocks from the protesters were answered with fusillades from police officers, some of whom were seen throwing rocks back at the protesters.

Smoke billowed from the prison as helicopters flew overhead. A bus arrived to transfer some inmates to a state facility near Mexicali.

Sunday's riot followed the death Saturday of a 19-year-old inmate after guards searched cells for drugs and weapons.

One guard was arrested in connection with the death. The prison's commander and his deputy fled and are considered fugitives.

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richard.marosi@latimes.com

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