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California Guards Kill Two Prisoners Who Attacked a Third

by Jo Ellen Nott

On November 29, 2022, two California prisoners attacked a third with a homemade knife in the recreation yard at the High Desert State Prison (HDSP). Responding guards first attempted to intervene with verbal commands. When those were ignored, they fired warning shots from a Mini-14 rifle. Then they deployed a chemical agent. Finally, they fired a fatal round of gunshots.

By that time, the victim, Anthony Aguilera, 68, was severely injured. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in serious condition. Despite guards’ life-saving measures, however, his two attackers died from their gunshot wounds — Raul Cuen, 48, at 11:37 a.m. and Frank Nanez, 32, shortly thereafter at 11:42 a.m. No other prisoners were injured, nor were any guards. Prison officials notified the state Office of the Inspector General. The Lassen County Coroner’s Office will determine the attackers’ cause of death.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said that guards recovered a prison-made knife used to attack Aguilera. CDCR has not released the names of the guards. Per agency policy, they were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Deadly Force Investigations Team — trained CDCR investigators who conduct criminal and administrative investigations into every use of deadly force.

According to CDCR, Cuen was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a 1994 conviction for first-degree murder, with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. Nanez was serving life, too, but with the possibility of parole, for a 2012 conviction for first-degree murder with multiple counts of intentional discharge of a firearm. Aguilera is serving life with the possibility of parole, as well, for 2007 convictions for attempted first- and second-degree murder.

It is the second time this year that a prisoner was attacked by two others on the recreation yard at HDSP. On February 18, 2022, guards reportedly observed prisoners Christopher Dolan, 30, and Michael Ellison, 39, as they also used homemade weapons to attack and kill fellow prisoner Michael Hastey, 19. [See: PLN, Mar. 7, 2022, online.] 

Additional source: Los Angeles Times

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