Crime

CMC interviewing hundreds of inmates in wake of deadly prison riot

The California Men’s Colony was the location of a deadly prison riot that left one inmate dead on Sunday.
The California Men’s Colony was the location of a deadly prison riot that left one inmate dead on Sunday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The cause of a California Men’s Colony prison riot that involved more than 160 inmates and killed one is still unknown, officials said Monday.

“This is an ongoing investigation that may take a few days. We are interviewing hundreds of inmates,” said Lt. Monica Ayon, a spokeswoman for CMC.

Ayon said that officials do not have any information on weapons that may have been used during the riot, which broke out Sunday morning in the yard of the medium-security East Facility, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The yard has the capacity to hold 600 inmates, though details were not available on how many inmates were in the yard on Sunday, Ayon said.

The inmate killed as a result of the riot was identified as 25-year-old Matthew Cook, CDCR said. According to the department, Cook had been incarcerated since April 2015 and was serving a 13-year, 8-month sentence for “several counts” of first-degree burglary out of San Joaquin County.

Multiple inmates received stab wounds, the CDCR said, and nine inmates were taken to outside hospitals for further treatment. As of Monday afternoon, three inmates were still in an outside hospital with “no change in their condition” and the rest had returned to CMC, Ayon said.

Since the riot, the prison has been on a “modified program,” which differs from a lockdown in that inmates are allowed to go to “critical, mandatory appointments,” Ayon said. She said she does not know how long inmates will be on the modified program, as the length of time will be determined by information gathered in the investigation.

Ayon said officials will “most likely” reassess visiting hours for the coming weekend Thursday.

On Monday, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Vicky Waters said that state officials are investigating the riot and will likely issue disciplinary actions for any inmate found guilty of inciting or participating in the incident. Criminal charges would be at the discretion of the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, she said.

Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Monday that his office was investigating Cook’s death and related assaults with the cooperation of CMC investigators. No charges had been filed in relation to the incident by late Monday.

When reached for comment, Nichol Gomez, spokeswoman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents prison correctional officers across the state, declined to discuss the riot.

She said, however, that union membership is extremely concerned about what she said were increased numbers of violent incidents inside California prisons, and the union is looking to discuss the issue with Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials.

Pre-2016 data was not immediately available Monday, but according to a CDCR report released this month, from July 2016 through July 2017, there were no reported murders or attempted murders at California Men’s Colony. The prison recorded six assaults on inmates, 16 assaults on custody staff, and five assaults on non-prisoners.

CMC recorded one disturbance, riot or strike in January 2017.

Figures for 2017 were not available, but data shows the prison was placed on lockdown or modified programs four times between July 2016 and January 2017.

According to CDCR, seven inmates died while in custody at CMC between July 2016 and July 2017.

Statewide over that period, nine inmate murders were recorded at California prisons.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

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