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Prisoner Shot Dead by Guard in California Prison Riot

One prisoner was shot dead and four others received wounds requiring outside hospitalization, in a 20 minute riot an October 12, 2003 at Facility "B" of Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP), a 5,000 man prison in Coalinga, California.

The evening melee occurred in a recreation yard between 40 Mexican nationals and 10 "Southern" Hispanic prisoners. Others in the dining hall could see the fight, encouraging another 250 to riot there and in a gymnasium [being used as a 250 man Level III lifer dorm].

The prisoner whose life was said to have been in danger in the yard walked away with bruises. But his assailant, 28 year-old Alejandro Enriquez of Whittier, California - serving 15 years-life for second degree murder - did not. He took one round in the chest from a Mini-14 rifle in the tower and died on the spot.

PVSP spokesman Lt. Paul Sanchez stated that standard protocol had been followed after Enriquez allegedly refused repeated warnings to cease fighting - continuing to pummel the other prisoner even after guards fired five rounds of non-lethal wood blocks, followed by a live Mini-14 "warning" round.

But a prisoner administrator-who asked not to be named, to protect against job retaliation - said that the fact that the victim was not badly injured raises serious questions about the shooting. "Our shooting policy is quite clear. You don't fire a deadly round to stop a fight unless you're darn sure an inmate is about to be killed." No prisoner weapons were found in the yard, although some were found in the dining hall and gym, according to California Department of Corrections (CDC) spokesperson Margot Bach.

Enriquez was killed close to the spot where PVSP guards shot Octavio Orozco to death in 1998. There, a ranking PVSP administrator had publicly conceded that Orozco's death was the result of a grave miscalculation by a guard. Orozco's family later settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $600,000. Orozco, a drug dealer, was one of 39 prisoners to die statewide during the 1990's as a result of the controversial practice of shooting prisoners engaged in fist fights. As a result of suits and investigations, the policy on using deadly force was changed. Now, a live Mini-14 round is only authorized to prevent an escape or to stop catastrophic injuries to staff or other prisoners.

Enriquez' death is being investigated by both the Fresno County Sheriff's office and by CDC.

Sources: Fresno Bee; Los Angeles Times; Coalinga Sentinel Reporter

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