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Two year Hispanic and Native gang battle forces Oklahoma prison lockdown

By Sean Murphy
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) September 2010

Oklahoma prison officials said Sept. 3 they imposed lockdowns at a pair of state prisons after two inmates were stabbed and several others were injured in a series of gang attacks that appeared coordinated.

Two inmates stabbed Sept. 2 were hospitalized briefly after fights erupted simultaneously in several housing units at Dick Connor Correctional Center in Hominy, said Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The inmates, whose names were not immediately released, did not suffer life-threatening wounds, and both returned to the facility Sept. 3.

Correctional officers sprayed tear gas to break up the fights, which involved about 16 inmates, said Ron Coliver, a spokesman for the Hominy prison.

Coliver said the attacks involved Hispanic and Native American gangs at the prison, but investigators are still working to determine what sparked them.

“We don’t know for sure,” Coliver said. “We assume the beef is some kind of retaliation.”

Another round of fights broke out during late August at the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown. Several inmates were injured but didn’t require hospitalization, Massie said.

Both facilities remained on lockdown status Sept. 3rd, which means inmates are confined to their cells, Massie said.

Homemade knives and weapons, including a padlock placed inside a sock, were used in the attacks, which investigators suspect were coordinated with cell phones smuggled into the prisons, he said.

The two gangs have been feuding for at least two years after a massive fight at the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite left two inmates dead and 13 others injured.

The dispute grew more heated last year after David Allen Tyner, a 28-year-old Native American, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of four people, including two pregnant women.

Two of victims in that case were Hispanic. Another was Brooke Phillips, a prostitute featured in the HBO reality series “Cathouse.” All were found shot to death in November inside a burned home in Oklahoma City.

“Right after Tyner was arrested last year, the Hispanics attacked the Indians simultaneously,” Coliver said, “presumably as a result of the Native American involved in the killing.”

In prison, the violence spread beyond affiliated gang members to include other Native American and Hispanic inmates, said Lynn Powell, the director of Oklahoma Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants.

“This has been going on for almost two years now,” said Powell, who meets regularly with current and former inmates and their families. “It just keeps flaring up and spreading, because now it’s not limited to just gang members. If you’re Native American or Hispanic, you’re going to be a target.”