YUMA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Nine months after an inmate riot at a Yuma prison, we're now getting to see the video of the deadly chaos.

Surveillance video of the prison yard recently released by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows inmates jumping fences, throwing rocks, and shielding themselves with trash cans, bulletin boards and mattresses. It also shows heavy smoke, an unexplained explosion and several fires.


ADC estimated it took about two and a half hours to get the hundreds of inmates under control in the medium-custody Cheyenne Unit.

According to an Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman, Andrew Wilder, one inmate died and a total of 35 people were injured in the March 1, 2018 incident. He added 10 of the injured were employed by the prison; the rest were prisoners.

This reportedly all started while correctional officers were escorting an inmate, believed to be drunk off prison-made alcohol, across the prison yard.


Adam J. Coppa was the inmate shot and killed. 

According to an ADC news release from May, that inmate attempted to assault the officers and ran away from them. The statement also said the officers chased the violent inmate and that's when other inmates started attacking the officers.

ADC estimated it took about two and a half hours to get the hundreds of inmates under control in the medium-custody Cheyenne Unit.

Adam J. Coppa was the inmate shot and killed. Circumstances and details surrounding why he was shot with a gun were not immediately available, but Wilder said he planned to provide that at a later date. He added Coppa was part of a group of inmates "advancing" on officers.

Wilder also clarified Coppa was not the drunk inmate who tried to run away from officers.

However, inmates weren't the only ones causing trouble.

While searching inmates' group living quarters, referred to as dorms, an investigation discovered a total of six correctional officers intentionally destroyed inmate property.

Surveillance video shows one officer damaging an inmate's television.

A total of six officers were fired for damaging inmate property and the ADC referred them to the Yuma County Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution.

ADC replaced the damaged property at a cost of $28,275.

To prevent a riot like this from happening again, ADC director Charles Ryan appointed a team of corrections professionals to assess what went wrong.

Executive summary report shows officers claimed they warned administration of possible riot

Executive summary report shows officers claimed they warned administration of possible riot.

ADC reports also found the riot to be spontaneous and cited taking away visitation privileges, lockdowns to punish inmates from making prison-made alcohol and the perception of inmates being disrespected by staff as possible reasons why inmates were agitated.

According to the report, one source of anger seems to come from banning their booze.

The report showed homemade alcohol was a problem within the Cheyenne unit. Over the course of six months, prison staff removed nearly 120 gallons of it.

However, some employees claimed the disturbance could've been prevented because they gave the administration the heads-up they thought a riot could be in the works, but the staff took no action to stop it. 

Report shows why inmate may have been agitated

Report shows why inmate may have been agitated.

The assessment also described a lack of leadership and communication as major problems.

The administration was ordered to go through extra training to learn how to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

Initial damage costs of the incident totaled $475,000 in repairs.

In the aftermath of the riot, prisoners were left outside to sleep in the yard for days. Wilder said it's because "the extent of the damage sustained by the facility rendered the inmate housing uninhabitable."

He added, "Inmates were provided drinking water, sunscreen and sanitary wipes throughout this period while restoration and repairs were being made in the housing units."

During the riot, ADC officials added the inmates broke into the inmate Health Unit and looted it of prescription drugs.

The ADC disturbance assessment report and operational review report is available here: https://corrections.az.gov/reports-documents/reports/aspc-yuma-cheyenne-unit-disturbance-assessment


Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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