California probes unusual string of assaults on prison staff

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities are investigating what they call an unusual string of assaults that injured nine employees at a single Southern California state prison, sending five to the hospital for treatment within days of each other.

Such multiple assaults are uncommon and concerning, corrections department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said Monday. They are not believed to be related but officials are investigating.

A correctional counselor's nose was broken Monday by an inmate at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County. The counselor also required eight stitches after officials said Ronnie Moody, 35, became irate.

Moody, who is serving a nearly 12-year sentence from San Francisco for crimes including attempted robbery and resisting arrest, was treated at the prison for minor injuries.

Three other inmates then attacked three other responding officers, causing minor injuries.

Three officers at the same prison were treated at a hospital Thursday when authorities said they were assaulted by William Vera, 51, who jumped out of his wheelchair. He is serving a life sentence from Tulare County for second-degree murder.

There were two more assaults on guards later the same day, including one that sent an officer to the hospital for treatment of a three-inch gash above his eye.

"It is uncommon enough that we're looking to address whatever is going on there," Waters said. "It is unusual to see consecutive days at the same prison."

The assaults are particularly troubling, she said, because they come as authorities continue investigating a mass assault by more than 120 inmates on eight correctional officers in a prison exercise yard at Pelican Bay State Prison at the opposite end of the state.

Investigators still aren't sure if the Pelican Bay attack in May was planned or spontaneous, she said. Eight guards and seven inmates were taken to outside hospitals after what started as a fight between two inmates quickly grew out of control.

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