Herald Staff Writer — An inmate was shot in the hand Friday morning when a correctional officer tried to stop him from beating an unconscious man at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, officials said.
Prison spokesman Lt. Darren Chamberlain said the officer, who has not been named, fired a warning shot first and then used potentially lethal force to try to stop two inmates from killing another man.
The incident took place around 10 a.m. in the recreation yard of the prison's maximum-security C facility.
Jose Espinoza, 41, was taken by helicopter to a local hospital to be treated for what appeared to be a non-life-threatening injury.
Chamberlain said Espinoza and Salvador Pineda, 28, of Riverside County, were in the yard beating a fellow inmate who fell unconscious and was unable to defend himself.
A correctional officer saw the beating and ordered Espinoza and Pineda to stop, Chamberlain said. When they kept going, the officer fired a warning shot from his Ruger mini-14 firearm.
"He elected to do a warning shot in a corner of the yard where it wouldn't hurt anyone," Chamberlain said.
They didn't stop, and the officer believed the unconscious inmate's life was in danger, and officer fired a second shot, striking Espinoza's hand with a .223-caliber round.
"Obviously, I'm sure that hurt," Chamberlain said. "This time, the attackers complied."
Chamberlain said he estimates the officer was around 50 to 75 yards away when he fired.
Officers rarely fire shots in the prison, he said, but are authorized to do so under certain conditions, such as when there is a "likelihood of death."
"In this case the inmate was knocked unconscious and was unable to defend himself," he said.
The officer has been assigned to work in another part of the prison while the shooting is reviewed, he said, and the state Inspector General's Office was notified Friday. continue reading...