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Three officers hurt in prison brawl

November 30, 1999|By David Dishneau

CRESAPTOWN, MD. -

Seventeen maximum-security inmates assaulted three correctional officers with pepper spray and chairs before two more officers used tear gas to quell the 10-minute uprising Thursday night at a Western Maryland prison, the state Division of Correction said Friday.

Three officers were injured; one was in intensive care at Cumberland Memorial Hospital after surgery for a head injury, said Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a Division of Correction spokeswoman. She said the 41-year-old man was in stable condition, and was conscious and talking.

The two other injured officers were treated for minor injuries, and one of them was treated for a possible arm fracture after what Doggett called "the inmate movement" Thursday night at the North Branch Correctional Institution.

Doggett declined to identify any of the officers, citing the privacy needs of an internal investigation into the incident.

"The reason for the attack is not currently known," Doggett said.

Doggett said the inmates attacked the officers about 10 p.m. as the inmates were leaving a recreation room to return to their cells at the prison in Cresaptown, about six miles south of Cumberland.

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The 256-bed prison was locked down Friday, and the inmates involved in the fight were in segregation pending completion of the investigation, Doggett said.

"The Division of Correction is aggressively pursuing the investigation into this incident because inmates assaulting officers of this nature will not be tolerated," Doggett said. "Any inmates found to be responsible for this can expect criminal charges to be filed against them."

Doggett said the inmates threw chairs and floor-standing fans at the three officers in an attack that spilled from the recreation room into a hallway and stairwell. Doggett said they also pelted the officers with batteries from the guards' radios, which the inmates somehow had obtained. The inmates got at least one guard's can of pepper spray and used it on the officers, she said.

Two other officers then moved in and used Mace to subdue the inmates and pull an injured guard into a cell to protect him from the inmates, Doggett said.

The most seriously injured officer has been with the agency for 3 1/2 years, Doggett said. She said the others were more experienced.

The Maryland Classified Employees Association, a state workers' union with about 1,800 members in the prison agency, demanded an investigation into whether the staffing of 17 maximum-security inmates by three officers was adequate.

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