Yuma Disturbance Investigation Update

March 5, 2018

Arizona Department of Corrections

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

YUMA (Monday, March 5, 2018) – The investigation of Thursday’s major disturbance at ASPC-Yuma’s Cheyenne unit is ongoing from an administrative and criminal standpoint, however, some additional information is now available.

On Friday, ADC Director Charles Ryan traveled to Yuma to personally assess and communicate with staff onsite.

Over the weekend, ASPC-Yuma reopened and resumed normal operations at its other four units (La Paz, Cibola, Cocopah and Dakota), which had been locked down following the disturbance at Cheyenne.

The incident that triggered the disturbance began with an inmate being escorted across the recreation yard who appeared to be under the influence.

This inmate attempted to assault the escorting officers and then ran away from them. The officers pursued him on the yard. This activity resulted in other inmates spontaneously attacking the officers.

Most of the inmates of this 1,124 bed, medium custody, dormitory environment were outside on the yard at this time (approximately 6:18 p.m.).

Both sides of the unit began attacking prison employees, breaking property (windows, toilets, sinks, etc.), and gained access to the dormitory officer stations as well. Inmates pulled mattresses and other property outside of the dormitories and started fires on the yard.

Two quick response weapons teams were deployed to prevent inmates from trying to gain access to the ‘no man’s zone’ fenced area. Yuma’s tactical support unit (TSU) team was activated to regain order from the inmates who had broken into the medical/health unit building. Inmates were attacking prison personnel using tables as shields when shotguns were deployed. 

Preliminary autopsy results of inmate Adam J. Coppa, ADC# 180398, indicates that he died as a result of a gunshot wound. His death remains under investigation.

ADC personnel brought the disturbance under control by approximately 9:00 p.m., and all inmates were secured in the outside recreation enclosures and placed in flex cuffs.

The local law enforcement response from Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, Yuma & San Luis Police Departments, FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and others provided resources to maintain the perimeter.

ADC transferred 44 inmates on Sunday from Cheyenne to the maximum-custody Eyman complex in Florence. Additional inmates have been placed in detention units, pending criminal investigations and/or movement.

Inmates that are considered elderly and in poorer health have been placed in alternate housing.

All other inmates involved in the disturbance have remained on the recreation yards since Thursday. They are receiving necessary provisions and care, including meals, water, prescribed medications, blankets, coats, and sunscreen and have access to medical care and porta-johns.

TSU teams from Lewis, Tucson and Perryville have been onsite to provide rotation relief for the Yuma team.

The initial damage estimate is approximately $475,000 and repairs remain in process, with many priority repairs having been completed already.

As we reported Friday, 11 employees sustained minor injuries and were treated.

Up two from Friday’s update, a total of 28 inmates were treated at the hospital. 25 have returned to the complex.

Staffing levels were not a factor in leading to Thursday’s disturbance. 33 of the unit’s 35 designated posts were staffed by correctional officers on duty at the time, along with two shift supervisors. Moreover, the Yuma complex has the lowest staff vacancy rate of all state-run prisons. Currently, the complex has zero correctional officer vacancies.

The department’s administrative and criminal investigations are ongoing.

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