Small riot contained at prison

January 06, 2003 12:00 am

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

A fight involving 75 inmates erupted in the "A yard" at Pelican Bay State Prison Thursday, the largest incident there since the February 2000 riot.

"It was the largest incident, but I wouldn't call it a disruption because it didn't disrupt the entire prison operation," said Lieutenant Rawland Swift, public information officer.

A partial lockdown was instituted after the fight broke out at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

More than 100 white and black prisoners were in the yard when it began. Fewer than 75 were involved in the melee, which involved no weapons, Swift said.

"Without weapons involved, we may never know what started the fight ... weapons would indicate it was planned," said Swift. "It could have been something as small as two guys fighting and it got out of hand ... (the fight) was divided along racial lines."

Swift said a security squad, which used pepper spray and tear gas to quell the fight, said the incident appeared to start small and continued to grow. The incident was controlled within three minutes, said Swift.

Four minor injuries were reported, all among inmates, and four weapons were found; three in the yard and one on an inmate. Swift said that prisoner will be charged with illegal possession of a weapon.

In 2000, one inmate was shot to death and 24 others were seriously injured when 200 prisoners took part in the largest riot in Pelican Bay State Prison's history. Twenty-four prisoners were seriously injured and treated at Sutter Coast Hospital. Many others were treated at the prison's infirmary for stabbing and beating injuries after the 30-minute riot.