Santa Clara County officials are working on increasing security at one of its jails after a deputy was severely injured in an attack by at least 10 inmates.
The attack reported on Christmas Eve occurred at Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas. Officials said a deputy tried to take contraband from a prisoner at the minimum and medium-security jail just before he was severely beaten by inmates.
"I think it was a spontaneous assault by the first person, who is a suspected gang member," Sheriff Laurie Smith said. "But I think it's code within the gangs that they go and help."
A weapon was also found following a sweep of the area two days after the attack. The weapon is a 7-inch homemade knife, also known as a "shank."
Officials said the weapon was discovered hidden on the sun deck near the area, where many inmates congregated that night.
The gathering was part of a normal routine, allowing prisoners some time outside their cells. Smith said investigators are still trying to determine if there a link between the weapon and the inmates who allegedly attacked the deputy.
The weapon was there during the attack, according to the sheriff.
"Even though the injuries were substantial, we're really fortunate it wasn't worse," Smith said.
The deputy, who the sheriff requested be unidentified for safety reasons, is recovering home from numerous injuries, including possibly a shoulder sprain, torn rotator cuff and head injuries.
"He was punched, kicked, knee and hit in the head several times," Smith said.
The inmates allegedly involved have now been placed in maximum security at the main jail awaiting their new court hearings on charges of assaulting a peace officer.
Some of the changes coming to the jail in response to the attack include more deputy staffing and reduced free time for inmates.
The alleged assault is the latest in a series of jail incidents under investigation in Santa Clara County.
In August, inmate Michael Tyree was allegedly beaten to death by three officers at the main jail in San Jose.