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1 Texas inmate dead, 31 hurt in riot

300 guards quell unrest by 300 inmates at Lamesa

LAMESA, Texas – A West Texas prison was under lockdown today after a riot by 300 inmates left one inmate dead and 31 injured, some critically.

The disturbance at the minimum- to medium-security Smith Unit began around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and was under control by midnight, said John Barton, spokesman for Warden Lupe Lozano.

State prison officials said it took about 300 guards to quell the riot, which centered in the prison's recreation yard and involved inmates wielding garden tools from a storage shed. A kitchen was gutted by fire, Fitzgerald said.

"You're looking at one-on-one instead of 10-on-one in this kind of situation,'' Barton said, in reference to the number of guards needed to regain control.

Fighting began after an incident in a chow hall between two inmates, said Larry Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville.

A Hispanic inmate confronted a black inmate who was fondling himself in front of a female officer, Fitzgerald said.

Word of the confrontation then spread throughout the unit.

"We're still trying to put all this together,'' said Fitzgerald.

Guards used a pepper spray-like substance to subdue the inmates. One guard suffered minor injuries from a gas grenade that went off in his hand.

The prison, about 60 miles south of Lubbock, was put under lockdown and an investigation was under way, Fitzgerald said.

The riot occurred as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was auditing staffing patterns at the prison after guards' complaints about understaffing. The prison was designed to hold 1,276 but currently houses 1,322 prisoners, Barton said.

It was the latest case of unrest at Texas prisons, the nation's second-largest prison system, and the second in West Texas this month.

On April 14, an inmate held a guard hostage for seven hours at the William P. Clements Jr. Unit in Amarillo before surrendering. The guard was not hurt. In December, a guard at Beeville became the first Texas corrections officer killed in 17 years. In January, a guard at the Byrd Unit in Huntsville was stabbed in the belly with a pencil. In February, two death row inmates armed with pieces of metal took a female officer hostage and held her for 13 hours before surrendering.

The name of the inmate who died Tuesday was not released.

Some of the injured inmates were taken to Brownfield Regional Medical Center. The hospital refused to give information, but Barton said some of the injuries were critical.

Six others were taken to the University Medical Center in Lubbock; none of those injuries was life-threatening, said Terry Martin, house supervisor at the hospital. Nine others were taken to the hospital of the Monford unit prison in Lubbock.
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