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Guard kills 23-year-old inmate during California state prison riot

Jonathan Velarde, 23. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Jonathan Velarde, 23. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

An inmate was killed by police during a prison riot at a California state prison, just a week after a member of the infamous San Quentin 6 died at a top-security lockup.

About 45 inmates were brawling in the dining hall at the California Correctional Center in Susanville at 5:45 p.m. Sunday when officers opened fire to break up the unrest, according to the California Department of Corrections. Jonathan Velarde, 23, allegedly was attacking another prisoner when he was struck by an officer’s bullet.

The corrections department said officers used pepper spray and fired four warning shots before resorting to gunfire.

Velarde’s death comes a week after another inmate, Hugo Pinell, a notorious killer with ties to the 1960s and 1970s black revolutionary movement, was stabbed to death by fellow inmates in an exercise yard at the California State Prison-Sacramento.

Pinell, 71, became infamous a generation ago for his role as one of the San Quentin 6 – a group of inmates whose failed attempt to break out of that famous prison left six people dead. Pinell helped to slit the throat of prison guards during the escape. He was the longest-serving inmate in California's prison isolation units until recent months, when he became one of nearly 1,000 inmates to be moved into the general population when the state came under sharp criticism for keeping too many inmates in solitary confinement for long stretches.

He was killed last Wednesday by two other inmates, prison officials said.

A correction’s department spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that the back-to-back fatal disturbances are a coincidence.

“There is nothing unusual about the frequency of these disturbances, and there are no correlations between the incidents,” department spokeswoman Dana Simas told the Times.

Velarde had been in prison for about two years. He was serving a two-year, eight-month sentence for robbery and selling marijuana. No one else was injured during the uprising.

Includes reporting by the Associated Press.

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