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Oregon Guard Shoots, Wounds Prisoner; Unreported Earlier Prisoner Murder Exposed

An Oregon state prisoner was shot by a tower guard on the recreation yard at the Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) last year, after he ignored orders to stop fighting. That incident followed an unreported prisoner murder on the same yard three months earlier.

On August 17, 2011, prisoner Brian C. Cole, 38, serving a life sentence, was transferred to SRCI. While on the recreation yard at about 8:15 p.m. the next evening, he was attacked by prisoners Kevin W. Jackson, 21, and Joel D. Stobbe, 23. At the time of the assault there were 188 prisoners and three guards on the yard, plus two armed tower guards monitoring the area.

Tower guard Jeff Curtis spotted Cole curled up on the ground as Jackson and Stobbe kicked him in the head and stomach. Curtis alerted other SRCI staff and ordered the prisoners to stop fighting.

“The attackers were unrelenting,” reported guard Christopher Hovey. When Jackson and Stobbe did not stop their attack, Curtis fired one round from his Ruger Mini-14 rifle that struck Jackson in the hip.

“They were ordered to stop and refused,” said Jeanine Hohn, an acting public affairs administrator for the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC). “Depending on the situation, a warning shot can be fired. In this case, a shot was fired to stop the assault.”

After the shooting, a guard handcuffed Jackson “so he did not continue to grab staff with his blood soaked hands.” Guard Jesse Kelsh tried to stop the bleeding using a prisoner’s T-shirt, while two other guards held Jackson’s head.

Jackson was taken by ambulance to a medical center in Ontario, Oregon, then flown to a Boise, Idaho hospital for surgery. Cole and Stobbe were treated at the prison for minor injuries, according to Hohn.

Following the August 18, 2011 incident, Cole was transferred to another prison and SRCI was placed on lock down. Jackson was hospitalized for eleven days before being returned to SRCI’s segregation unit, where Stobbe had been moved.

“All in all, it went like clockwork,” said Jamie Miller, SRCI’s assistant superintendent of security. “It was a very unfortunate circumstance. We do not want to have to use lethal force.”

Oregon State Police (OSP) detectives were sent to SRCI to investigate. “It’s like any officer-involved shooting,” said OSP Lt. Gregg Hastings. “We will be interviewing inmates, officers and any eyewitnesses. We’re trying to determine the facts under which the use of force was taken and if it was appropriate. The case will then be sent to the district attorney.”

After receiving the OSP investigation – which included 47 staff and 171 prisoner interviews – Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris commenced a review in November 2011 to determine if the shooting was justified. He will also consider whether criminal charges should be filed against Jackson and Stobbe.

Curtis remains on active duty and will likely be cleared of any wrongdoing, especially considering that another SRCI prisoner was murdered on the same recreation yard just three months earlier, according to Norris.

On May 21, 2011, prisoner Chris Lange, 54, was beaten to death by fellow prisoner and longtime rival Jimmy De-Franks. Lange was nearing release on a 1987 murder conviction, while DeFranks is serving life without parole. Murder charges are expected in the case.

The ODOC did not issue a news release concerning Lange’s death, Hohn admitted. She did not know why prison officials had failed to comply with ODOC rules requiring public disclosure of the homicide.

Following Lange’s murder, SRCI tower guards were trained to stop life-threatening incidents by aiming at the prisoner’s body “below the center of mass,” often the hips, if the prisoner refuses to respond to orders to stop, said Norris. Hohn, however, stated she was unaware of any such training.

Jackson is the second SRCI prisoner to be shot by a tower guard, according to Hohn. In April 2008, a prisoner was shot when he refused to respond to orders during a large-scale disturbance.

An investigation found the 2008 shooting to be justified but recommended that cameras and sound equipment be upgraded, and that guards be separated prior to being questioned by police investigators following shooting incidents. The ODOC will conduct a similar internal review of the Jackson shooting once Norris completes his investigation.

On November 11, 2011, a tower guard at SRCI fired a warning shot to break up a fight involving 29 prisoners on the recreation yard. No injuries were reported.

Source: The Oregonian

 

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