Guard shot inmate to death in California prison riot, officials say

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 19, 2015 7:35 PM

(Reuters) - A guard at a California prison shot to death an inmate who was attacking another prisoner with a shank during a riot over the weekend, just days after a deadly riot at another correctional facility in the state, officials said on Wednesday.

Investigators are looking into the cause of the latest riot, which occurred on Sunday at California Correctional Center at Susanville in the northern part of the state, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

About 45 inmates started fighting in a dining hall, prompting guards to use pepper spray and to fire four warning shots in an attempt to stop the rioting, officials said.

One inmate, 23-year-old Jonathan Velarde, attacked another prisoner with a home-made shank, said Dana Simas, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

During that attack, a guard shot Velarde with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, Simas said.

Velarde, who was serving a nearly three-year sentence for attempted second-degree robbery and possession of marijuana for sale, was later pronounced dead at the prison's medical unit.

A handful of other prisoners were wounded in the riot, but none had injuries severe enough to require them to be transported to a local hospital, Simas said.

No guards were hurt.

Prison investigators will turn over their findings on the shooting and the riot to the Lassen County District Attorney's Office and a use of deadly force review board, officials said.

On Aug. 12, another riot at California State Prison-Sacramento resulted in the violent death of Hugo Pinelli, 71, an inmate who had participated in a notorious 1971 escape attempt from San Quentin. Eleven inmates were taken to hospitals with stab wounds in that disturbance, officials said.

The two riots were not related, Simas said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler)