CRESCENT CITY, Calif. – An insurrection erupted Wednesday at Pelican Bay State Prison. There were eight prison guards and seven inmates taken to hospitals after a fight between two inmates Wednesday turned into a full scale riot that took live ammunition to stop, officials said.
Correctional officers fired 19 rounds from semi-automatic rifles and three hard foam rounds to break up the melee at Pelican Bay State Prison, located in Crescent City near the Oregon border, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release.
Five of the seven injured inmates suffered gunshot wounds, according to prison officials. One of the inmates was airlifted to a different hospital for a higher level of care, Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told the Associated Press. Three other inmates were admitted to hospitals and two were discharged back to prison.
According to Fox News all of the injured guards were treated and released from local hospitals. Thornton said one of those officers will eventually need surgery for an injured shoulder.
“They all had like facial injuries, bumps, bruises, contusions,” she told the AP. “It’s a frightening incident. It’s frightening to have inmates just swarm you . . . to overwhelm you and attack you.”
According to officials the skirmish began when two inmates refused to break up a fight at the high-security prison around 10:25 a.m. in a maximum-security general population yard.
A large gathering of prisoners ran toward the clash and attacked the correctional officers. Responding staff used chemical agents and batons to subdue the inmates, but they were ineffective and the inmates refused to stop fighting, according to state officials.
Prison officials said two inmate-made weapons were recovered, but it does not appear at this time they were used in the attack.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sent a Deadly Force Investigations Team to the prison to conduct the criminal and administrative investigation into the incident.
There were 97 inmates isolated in a disciplinary housing unit after the assault.
“As the investigation progresses, we’ll have a better idea how many inmates were actually involved. But the fact that the 97 inmates were re-housed indicates they had some level of involvement,” Thornton said.
At the preliminary stages of the investigation, they do not know whether it was a planned attack on correctional officers or if it was gang-related, she said.
The Peer Support Program was activated. The program ensures CDCR employees involved in work-related critical incidents are provided with intervention and resources to cope with the traumatic effects.
“We’re encouraged that the officers weren’t injured more than they were,” Thornton said.
Pelican Bay State Prison located in Del Norte County, is made up of two maximum-security facilities, two security housing unit facilities, a minimum-support facility and a short-term restricted housing unit, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The prison opened in 1989, currently houses approximately 2,000 inmates and employs approximately 1,300 people.