- Associated Press - Friday, March 2, 2018

SAN LUIS, Ariz. (AP) - An inmate died during a riot at a southern Arizona prison where hundreds of inmates attacked guards and set fires, prison officials said Friday.

The Arizona State Prison Complex - Yuma, which is located roughly 200 miles (321 kilometers) southwest of Phoenix in San Luis, remained closed Friday and visitation was suspended.

The melee began Thursday night in the prison’s Cheyenne Unit when inmates attacked prison staff, DOC spokesman Andrew Wilder said.

The incident devolved into a chaotic scene involving 600 inmates. Some threw rocks, lit mattresses and other property on fire and some broke into the prison’s health care unit. The damage included broken windows, sinks, toilets, fire alarms and flooding. Authorities were working to arrange alternate housing for inmates.

Other law enforcement agencies including San Luis police and the Yuma County sheriff’s office were called to assist and the scene was contained nearly three hours later.

The Arizona Department of Corrections said in a release that Adam J. Coppa, 32, suffered fatal injuries during the melee, but details of how he was injured were not disclosed. An investigation is ongoing.

“The department is thoroughly investigating all facets of the disturbance, including possible motivation of the inmates,” the department said. “ADC will seek additional criminal charges for any inmates involved in this violent activity.”

According to online prison records, Coppa was sentenced to three years for 2017 convictions for possession of dangerous drugs and other offenses. But because of credit for time served, he was scheduled for release this September.

His record also shows Coppa had two disciplinary infractions in the last two months. He refused a prison job assignment and was suspected of possessing or manufacturing an intoxicating substance. His previous defense attorneys did not immediately respond Friday afternoon to a message seeking comment.

According to officials, 26 inmates and 11 prison employees suffered minor or non-life-threatening injuries. Of the employees, all but one has already returned to work.

The complex houses roughly 1,147 inmates. Those who were involved remain contained in fenced recreation enclosures in the recreation yard, the department said. They are receiving meals, water, blankets, necessary medications and access to restrooms.

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