Before riot, inmates were drinking liquor, snorting meds - Albuquerque Journal

Before riot, inmates were drinking liquor, snorting meds

Daily Times photo
Daily Times photo

riotFARMINGTON — The more than 30 inmates involved in the Dec. 28 riot at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center were drinking jailhouse liquor on the night of the incident, according to a police report.

Several inmates are also suspected of snorting Wellbutrin, a prescription medication used to treat depression, shortly before the riot occurred, according to an investigation conducted by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

Medical staff at the jail prescribed the drug to inmates, the report states.

Jail Administrator Tom Havel said a critical incident review is underway, and he expects it to be completed next week.

Once the review is complete, he said he will make changes to address issues raised by last month’s incident.

“We will ensure that our staff remains safe and our community remains safe, while preserving the rights of the inmates,” he said.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said he was not aware alcohol was a factor in the incident. But, he said, the jail’s internal review will determine how officials will proceed.

He said he has discussed possibilities for controlling alcohol and drug use at the jail, including increasing cell and inmate searches.

“We are never going to overlook the need for safety for an inmate or a guard,” he said. “We will evaluate and see, at what length, what do we need to do?”

He said he has not ruled out providing additional county funds to the jail to help those efforts.

Both Carpenter and Havel disagreed with the characterization of the Dec. 28 incident as a riot.

According to U.S. Code, a “riot” is defined as a public disturbance involving violence perpetrated by three or more people.

As previously reported, the Sheriff’s Office investigation into the riot resulted in felony charges being brought against four individuals: Rinalldo Chee, Alvin Martin, Arrison Parrish and Aaron Thomas.

Havel said jail officials are working with the Sheriff’s Office and the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office to bring additional charges against the individuals suspected of snorting medication. The police report identifies at least four people suspected of snorting the medication.

The inmates are accused of attacking guards at about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 28 after the guards responded to reports of a fight in pod B8.

Several other inmates disobeyed orders to return to their cells during the brawl, the police report states. Farmington SWAT team members and Sheriff’s Office deputies were eventually dispatched to quell the unrest.

One guard choked Chee during the brawl, leaving him unconscious, the police report states.

According to the report, the officers and guards formed a “skirmish line,” but, realizing they were outnumbered, retreated to outside the pod.

A deputy then told the inmates through the jail’s speaker system to exit the pod one at a time, the report states. After some discussion between an inmate spokesman and the deputy, the prisoners eventually complied.

The B8 pod, where the riot took place, was a “high classification” pod, Havel said.

A review of the criminal records of the people held in the pod shows many are being held on violent felony offenses, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and battery on a peace officer.

Thomas, 26, is being held on a $250,000 cash-only bond in connection to a double stabbing on Nov. 24 in Fruitland.

Another inmate, Thaddeus Carter, is being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond in connection to a non-fatal shooting Nov. 25 on Glade Lane in Farmington.

According to the police report, Martin, 28, was found to have a 0.18 blood-alcohol content when he was removed from the pod after the riot.

The report states an investigation showed everyone in the pod was drinking alcohol before the riot.

Havel said the liquor, commonly called “hooch,” was likely made in-house and was not contraband.

He said inmates sneak drink flavoring, fruit and bread out of the cafeteria during lunch. The ingredients are mixed together and left to ferment for several days, creating a beverage that is typically 8 to 21 percent alcohol.

Havel said the inmates suspected of snorting Wellbutrin likely hid the pills prescribed to them in their cheeks or regurgitated them once they were out of the guards’ sight.

He said the lights are turned off in the B8 pod at 10 p.m. every night, but the inmates are not locked down and are free to roam during the night.

The police report states many of the inmates are seen on surveillance footage drinking from cups at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 28.

Havel said once the critical incident review is completed, the inmates suspected of being involved in the incident will face a disciplinary hearing board.

If found culpable, they will be reprimanded, potentially losing visiting privileges or facing solitary confinement.

Havel said the four men criminally charged in connection to the incident are currently in solitary confinement.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.


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