An inmate serving in effect a life sentence for sexual assault and another inmate serving up to 20 years on a drug charge have been killed during a melee at the Tecumseh state prison.
The Department of Correctional Services has released the name of the two inmates killed during the hours inmates were locked unattended in Housing Unit Two of the maximum security prison.
Dead are 39-year-old Damon Fitzgerald, serving 310 to 470 years for sexual assault, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, burglary, and assault of a peach officer and 31-year-old Michael Galindo, serving 12 to 21 years for robbery, forgery, and attempted possession of a controlled substance as well as driving under suspension.
“Any loss of life is tragic. The TSCI staff handled the situation extremely well, which limited the incident to a small number of participants and minimal damage,” State Corrections Director Scott Frakes told reporters during a news conference at the prison last night. “The public’s safety was never compromised.”
An investigation of the incident is underway by the Nebraska State Patrol.
Frakes said all prison staff were recalled to the prison after the disturbance began with a small fire outside the housing unit around one o’clock. Emergency response teams arrived and took control of the housing unit at around 4:30pm, able to quell the disturbance without having to fire any weapons. Team members discovered the two deaths. Several other inmates suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Though fires were set in the unit during the disturbance, no significant property damage was done, according to prison officials.
Tecumseh remains in lock down indefinitely.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, who attended the news conference, called the loss of life tragic.
“This is a dangerous place. You have people here who made bad choices and are violent,” Ricketts said. “That’s why they’re in prison. And so, if they continue to make bad choices we’re going to have to respond to them.”
Prison warden Brad Hansen says the incident is a setback for improvements made at Tecumseh since the Mother’s Day riot in 2015 which left two inmates dead as well.
“I do believe we’ve made many improvements and it is devastating to me any kind of loss of life that has happened and it’s important that we take again a very hard look at what happened and how it happened and try to make improvements from that point on,” Hansen said.
Housing Unit 2 can hold as many as 128 inmates. It is a maximum security unit. All of the inmates are in the general population of the prison, but are being held in the highest security.