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Two inmates from L.A. detained in attack on guards at Pelican Bay State Prison

January 11, 2011 |  6:25 pm

Pelican Bay State Prison was placed on indefinite lockdown Tuesday after at least two inmates, both convicted of crimes in Los Angeles, allegedly attacked three prison guards with homemade weapons, state corrections officials said.

The union representing the state's 31,000 prison guards said two officers required dozens of stitches after suffering deep slash wounds on their faces. Another officer sustained multiple stab wounds, including one cut through his collarbone.

Union officials blamed overcrowding.

The attacks were carried out by a 20-year-old inmate, who was not immediately identified but has been in custody since October 2009, according to a statement released by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

That inmate is serving a 50-year sentence for a first-degree murder conviction in Los Angeles County. A second inmate, a 36-year-old man who had been behind bars since February 1997, is suspected in the attacks.

Corrections officials said Pelican Bay State Prison would remain locked down until further notice and would issue a notification if visits are cancelled. The prison, which opened in 1989 and houses 3,200 inmates, deals with some of the state's most dangerous inmates. It is located outside Crescent City in Del Norte County.

The attacks at the maximum-security facility were reported about 9:25 a.m. when two inmates rushed the officers with prison-made weapons as they were being released into the exercise yard, authorities said. Fellow prison guards responded immediately, using physical force and batons to subdue the inmates. 

Union officials said the prison was designed to house 2,280 inmates, but because of the state’s inmate overcrowding crisis, the prison houses 3,461 inmates.

“We urge the Governor, the Legislature and the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation to act swiftly to ensure that proper staffing, equipment and adequate prison space are provided to reduce the potential for future attacks on California’s sworn law enforcement officers,” said  Chuck Alexander, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.

The incident is being investigated by the Investigative Services Unit, the Office of the Inspector General’s Bureau of Independent Review and by the Del Norte County district attorney’s office.


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--Andrew Blankstein