A jail house riot broke out at the Whatcom County Jail last night, but deputies were able to contain the inmates suspected of causing the riot within an hour, The Whatcom County Sheriff’s department said. The incident began at about 9:30 last night, said Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks, when six inmates, all being held on “serious felony crimes” began engaging in coduct that constituted a riot. The inmates were able to dismantle metal components of the ventilation system, which they then used to shatter all of the interior day room windows, Parks said.
They also pried locks from individual cell doors, flooded toilets, and did not respond to orders from deputies to return to their cells. They also attempted to pry open a temporary cover over an exit door that had been installed as part of the on-going repair process for the jail. Parks said that Deputies were able to contain the incident to a single second floor jail housing unit, which the inmates were unable to escape from. A riot-trained Corrections Crisis Emergency Response Team responded and within an hour the incident was brought under control.
One inmate was transported to the hospital with an injured leg. Deputies are still investigating the cause of the riot, but Sheriff Elfo said the inmates may have been upset about the amount of time they were let out of their cells. All of them, he said, have records of “institutional misconduct and are considered dangerous.” Another contributing factor could have been the deteriorating state of the jail, Elfo said. “The inmates were able to pry metal parts from the crumbling concrete walls and use these parts as weapons to arm themselves and inflict significant damage,” Elfo said.
“With little additional space available to separate the rioting inmates, deputies had to move other inmates in unaffected area[s] of the jail to make space necessary to segregate those involved in the disturbance. Despite all of the interim measures we have taken to try and maintain the jail, the bottom line is that the overall infrastructure continues to fail and needs to be replaced. We are very fortunate that none of our staff was injured.”