Officials: Fight attempted at jail

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 27, 2012 

A gang fight broke out between inmates at the John Latorraca Correctional Center on Monday, the second incident in 2½ weeks, according to the Merced County Sheriff's Department.

Armed with broomsticks and mop handles, six inmates forced open their dorm cell door and tried to attack 12 prisoners from a rival gang, said Deputy Tom MacKenzie, a sheriff's spokesman.

The incident happened just after noon Monday when the 12 rival inmates were being walked back to their dorm after exercising.

Correctional officers intervened when they heard the inmates trying to force open their dorm room door and used pepper spray to control the prisoners.

According to MacKenzie, the inmates immediately returned to their cell and no one was injured during the incident.

The Sheriff's Department said they're trying to reinforce the dorm room doors to prevent incidents such as this from happening again.

Officers believe the attempted attack was in retaliation for the fight that happened on Nov. 7.

During that incident, more than 10 inmates broke through a shared wall, creating a large hole that allowed them to attack rival gang members in another dorm.

Initially described as a riot, that fight was broken up by correctional officers who cleared out the dorm and checked the inmates for injuries. One prisoner was sent to the hospital after the assault and at least five others suffered minor injuries, including lacerations, cuts and scrapes.

The Sheriff's Department said the dorms at John Latorraca Correctional Center were not designed to house long-term "violent" prisoners, but they must use the facility for that purpose because of budget reductions and Assembly Bill 109 -- the state's prison realignment law.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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