COVID-19 discovery sparks ‘mini riot’ at Hays County jail

Weeks after the SWAT team was called to Hays County Jail to quell what a senior officer with the Sheriff’s Office called a “mini riot,” the investigation is continuing with no charges filed.

Lt. Dennis Gutierrez said inmates in late June set a fire and used mattresses to block windows and security cameras in one housing area commonly referred to as a “tank” that can house up to 24 individuals. “They started a mini-fire, and we are still trying to figure out how they got the fire started.”

Public records indicate two “arson” entries at 1307 Uhland Road, where the jail is located, on June 26.

Gutierrez said the reason for the uprising is related to the discovery of COVID-19 within the lockdown. The disturbance occurred more than a week after the first case was discovered.

He said after that first case was discovered, jail personnel went to the tank intending to test more inmates, but they refused the procedure.

“A couple of days later they said they did want to get tested and wanted to get tested ‘right now,’” which he said would “take a little bit” of time to arrange.

“They weren’t satisfied and started a mini riot.”

Jail staff initially tried to talk the situation down but were unsuccessful. That’s when the decision was made to call in the SWAT team.

Gutierrez said the team deployed a “stinger grenade,” which he described as a device that shoots out rubber balls on impact. He said one inmate hurt his shoulder as he and others dropped to the ground, but that there were no other associated injuries.

Several of the inmates were taken to segregation and others were moved to housing elsewhere as jail staff had to repair damages within the tank, to clean it and to restore cameras to functionality.

Gutierrez said other incidents that have occurred at the jail lately have been handled by staff.

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