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Accident Kills Inmate at State Prison

Accident Kills Inmate at State Prison

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DRAPER, Utah (AP) -- An inmate was killed accidentally when his head was crushed in a closing cell door, officials said Monday.

John J. Gardner, 27, was peering out his cell at Utah State Prison on Thursday when an officer about 150 feet away activated the mechanism that closed the cell doors on the block, the sheriff's department said.

The officer was standing behind a wall, where the door mechanism is located, and could not see that Gardner was not completely inside the cell, prison spokesman Jack Ford said.

Ford said when the cell doors are about to be shut, the guard shouts out his intentions and the doors begin closing 10 to 15 seconds later.

Ford said he knew of no previous cases of an inmate getting his head caught in the door, though "we've had arms caught before."

Sheriff's office policy requires that homicide detectives investigate when there is a death at the prison.

Gardner was at the prison on a diagnostic evaluation after being arrested in Spanish Fork for theft.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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