Jail fight breaks out on camera as sheriff is about to show off new surveillance system

- A massive jail fight between inmates at the Santa Clara County Jail was caught on camera Thursday, less than 24 hours after surveillance cameras were installed.

The incident happened on the fourth floor of the Main Jail in San Jose just after 3:00 p.m. as KTVU Reporter Cristina Rendon and her photographer, Sean Drummond, were inside the jail lobby waiting to get a tour of the new security system.

The jail was immediately placed on lockdown and hazmat crews were brought in to clean up the pepper spray that was used to subdue inmates. Approximately 20 deputies responded to the fight, according to a Santa Clara County Jail spokesman.

The fist fight began between two inmates and prompted several more inmates to jump in. Initial reports were that 30 people were involved, but that number was later reduced to about a dozen. 

"It looks like one inmate brushed up against another and then the fight was on with fists," said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. "You can see a lot of fist fighting going on in the video. The inmates are spread through out the pod." 

A medical staff responded to the fight and treated several inmates. Moderate injuries were reported, but no one was seriously hurt.

Sheriff Smith said the fight was captured on cameras she recently purchased and had installed on the fourth floor, known as pod 4A, where maximum security inmates are housed.

Smith purchased 12 security cameras from Costco on Wednesday after learning it would take the county two years and up $20 million to install more security cameras at the jails. The purchase resulted in a $761 bill from Costco, but Smith said it was money well spent. She expects to get reimbursed from the county.

“We’ll be able to look at the video and see if there is any criminal culpability. We’ll be able to see what happened and the actions of the deputies. We will be able to see everything,” Smith said moments after learning of the fight.

The cause of the fight remains under investigation.

Smith said the cameras are a temporary solution.

"We will be able to see who was the aggressor, who was assaulted, who was involved in the fight," said Smith.

She vowed to have more cameras installed in the jail following the beating death of inmate of Michael Tyree last August. Three correctional deputies charged in his death are currently on trial.

Thursday evening, acting President of the Santa Clara Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, Julio Alvarez, issued the following statement: 

“We must make our jails safe and humane, for inmates and for officers. The installation of cameras is part of a comprehensive commitment, which we share with the Department and the Blue Ribbon Commission, to fix the systemic problems in our jail system.”

Family members of the incacerated rushed in to check on their loved ones including Kelli Gipson.

"I'm a little nervous," said Gipson. "I hope my brother is okay."

Her brother has been in a jail for a year. She was unable to see him because of the lockdown. When asked what she thought of the new cameras, she said they appear to be working.

"I think it's a great thing, great asset," said Gipson. "I think it's going to help curb a lot of things that's been going on."

No deputies were injured the inmates involved in the fight did not have any serious injuries.


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