High Desert State Prison investigating inmate death as a possible homicide

High Desert State Prison officials are investigating the death of an incarcerated man as a homicide after he was attacked by two other inmates, a Tuesday statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation read.

Christian Lepe

About 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, staff allegedly observed inmate Ricardo Palmerin punch inmate Christian Lepe, knocking him to the ground and hitting him with stabbing-like motions. Another inmate, David Morales joined in the attack , the statement read.

Officers immediately responded and fired two rubber bullets at Palmerin, halting the violence.

Lepe suffered multiple stab wounds. Responding staff began life-saving measures and transported him to the prison’s medical facility where treatment continued. A doctor pronounced Lepe deceased at 7:30 p.m, the statement read.

Ricardo Palmerin

Officers reportedly recovered two inmate-manufactured weapons at the scene of the attack, the statement continued. No staff members were injured in the altercation.

Palmerin and Morales were placed in segregated housing pending an investigation into their involvement. Inmate movement has been limited.

The Lassen County District Attorney’s Office is assisting HDSP’s Investigative Services Unit. The Office of the Inspector General has been notified.

Lepe, 24, was received from Tulare County on Oct. 9, 2017. He was sentenced to nine years for assault with a deadly weapon, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and an enhancement of inflict great bodily injury involving domestic violence.

Palmerin, 26, was received from Kings County on March 11, 2015. He was sentenced to 20 years for second-degree attempted murder as a second striker and a street gang enhancement. While in prison, Palmerin in 2015 was sentenced to an additional four years for possession/manufacture of a deadly weapon by a prisoner.

David Morales

Morales, 27, was received from San Francisco County on March 1, 2017. He was sentenced to 24 years for assault with a semi-automatic firearm, evading a police officer causing serious bodily injury and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

HDSP, located in Lassen County, opened in 1995 and houses 3,297 minimum-, medium-, and maximum-custody inmates. The prison provides academic classes, vocational instruction, work assignments and rehabilitation programs and employs more than 1,200 people.