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Another Unsupervised Prisoner Beaten To Death in L.A. County Jail

The eighth prisoner-on-prisoner killing in the Los Angeles (LA) County Jail in the past two years occurred in November, 2005, in spite of earlier assurances by Sheriff Lee Baca that he was taking steps to tighten security after the spate of five inexcusable killings between October 2003 and April 2004. (See: PLN, Apr. '05, p.16).

This brutal killing marks the second recent occurrence of a prisoner being slain in an unsupervised group setting in the 6,300-bed Main Jail, noted ACLU jails project coordinator Jody Kent.

The unnamed victim, a white 35 year-old Georgia native, was awaiting trial on being a felon in possession of a weapon [Level 7 housing designation], but was inexplicably placed with 30 prisoners (including known gang members awaiting trial for Level 9 violent crimes) in a blind 700 square foot locked dining room with boarded-up windows.
When the victim allegedly cut in front of others to get his meal (apparently disrespecting a pre-agreed racial order), two Hispanic prisoners spent 10-15 minutes beating and stomping his head, literally jumping off of a steel bench onto him, while the other 27 prisoners watched in silence. One suspect, Christian Perez, 18, was already pending a murder trial. The other, Heriberto.Rodriguez, 24, is an alleged San Fernando Valley gang member awaiting trial on multiple kidnappings and carjackings. The body was not discovered for another 20 minutes until deputies returned, observing blood all over the floor, walls and bench. While the attack was occurring, deputies had been searching nearby cells and found three shanks.

"You can be assured the sheriff's investigators are going to be looking at all of this," said Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka. Initial corrective action resulted in the holding room not being used anymore and the placement of Level 7 prisoners with Level 9s prohibited.
"Our goal is to not have anyone die in our custody," Tanaka added.

ACLU's Jody Kent wasn't impressed. "Anybody who goes into these facilities can see it's not safe to put inmates in there where they cannot be supervised," she said. The prescient Kent had already been seeking such a policy for three months.

Source: Los Angeles Times.

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