FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Inmates angered when milk ran short during breakfast at the county jail in Farmington began refusing to obey orders and triggered a brief confrontation with detention officers that ended with jailers shooting them with paint ball-like projectiles filled with an irritant gas, officials said Saturday.
The ruckus at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center initially involved 38 maximum security inmates but 16 complied with orders when a sergeant arrived, deputy administrator Daniel Webb said. The other 22 men kept yelling at officers and retreated up the stairs to the second tier of cells. Local and state police were called to help jailers control the situation.
The problems began as the inmates gathered for breakfast in a common room of their jail "pod," Webb said.
All the inmates received their allotted 20 ounces of milk, but there wasn't enough Saturday morning for all who wanted a second cup, Webb said. There's usually enough to go around, and the shortage angered the inmates.
"They just kind of took on a bad attitude," Webb said.
The guards assigned to the unit called a sergeant, and 16 inmates agreed to leave the unit. The others, who Webb called "some of our local bad boys," refused, retreated upstairs and taunted jailers while urging some wavering inmates to stand their ground.
Webb said Farmington police, state police and sheriff's deputies were called to the jail to help, along with an ambulance. A tactical team then entered the jail unit and began firing the balls containing the tear gas-like substance.
"The pepper ball (weapon) was deployed, inmates became complaint, and they came downstairs one at a time," Webb said.
Some of the inmates were coughing from the irritant and were treated by the ambulance crew, but all were fine.