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California Briefing / Delano

Guards fire rounds during fatal prison riot

March 20, 2009|Carol J. Williams

Prison guards fired live rounds, pepper spray and rubber bullets to quell a riot at Kern Valley State Prison in which one inmate was stabbed to death and 17 others injured, state corrections officials disclosed Thursday.

The deadly melee in the maximum-security section of the overcrowded prison involved 38 inmates, four of whom suffered bullet wounds after guards moved in to contain the riot that began at 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported.

The riot occurred in the general population yard of Kern Valley's Facility B at the prison 180 miles north of Los Angeles. Four inmate-made weapons were recovered from the scene, reported Lt. Xavier Cano of the prison's public information office.

"Correctional officers used lethal munitions, pepper spray and multiple direct impact rubber rounds to quell the incident. A correctional officer also discharged five rounds from the mini-14 rifle," Cano's statement said, referring to a military-style rifle used in some prisons.

Inmate Oscar Cruz, serving a 37-year sentence for first-degree armed robbery and gang activity in Los Angeles County, received multiple stab wounds before being treated at the prison medical center. He was then taken to an outside hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:26 p.m.

Kern Valley, one of two state prisons in Delano, houses more than 4,700 prisoners, nearly twice its designed capacity of 2,448, a problem plaguing all of California's 33 adult prisons.

The cause of the riot was still under investigation by the prison's Investigative Services Unit in conjunction with the Kern County district attorney, the state Office of Inspector General and the corrections department's Deadly Force Investigation Team.

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-- Carol Williams

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