An inmate at Ely State Prison was hospitalized after he was shot by a guard during a fight Tuesday night, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.
The inmate, who was not involved in the fight, sustained eye injuries from birdshot in a shotgun and was provided on-site medical care and taken to William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely. Ririe Hospital staff decided to transport him to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, the department said.
About eight other inmates were also injured by the shotgun blast, corrections officials said in a release Wednesday night, but their injuries were described as minor. The inmates were treated by prison medical staff and declined further treatment, the department said.
The incident began when four prisoners attacked one inmate during “open tier time,” the department said. Officers gave verbal commands to stop fighting and get on the floor, and all of the prisoners complied except two who were fighting. After further commands by the officer to cease fighting, an officer fired a blank warning shot.
Despite additional orders to cease fighting, they continued to fight. An officer then shot a shell consisting of 7.5 birdshot in the direction of the two fighters, which the department said is in accordance with their policy.
Then the fight stopped.
Corrections officials declined to give out further information, saying only that the incident is under investigation by the Department’s Office of Inspector General.
Sunrise Hospital officials would not confirm the prisoner was there, and corrections officials could not provide an update on the inmate’s condition or identity Wednesday night.
The Wednesday release, attributed to Corrections Department Director Greg Cox, comes in the wake of public scrutiny of the department’s seeming lack of transparency with regard to inmate shootings.
Carlos Manuel Perez Jr., 28, was shot Nov. 12 during what is described as a scuffle at High Desert State Prison near Indian Springs. Another inmate, Andrew Arevalo, was shot in the face. Arevalo’s attorney, Alexis Plunkett, has said both inmates were handcuffed behind their backs when the shooting happened.
The Department of Corrections in November announced that Perez had died but said nothing about the circumstances. Perez’s family said they learned he had been shot only when they saw the bullet wounds at the morgue three days later. Details of that shooting were not released by the corrections department until mid-March.
Department policies on the use of force by correctional officers say deadly force should be used as a “last resort” to protect a person from “imminent death or serious bodily injury,” protect state property, prevent escapes or capture escapees.
When necessary, force “will be limited to the minimum degree necessary to resolve the situation.”
Nevada Department of Corrections data show that guards fired 215 gunshots at High Desert from 2007 through 2011, according to data obtained by the Review-Journal last week. Ely State Prison had 14 shootings during the same period, about 5 percent of the prison’s 259 use-of-force incidents.
Other methods of controlling inmates include other listed use-of-force methods such as body shields, batons, chemical agents or a show of force.
Contact Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and 702-383-0391. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl.