LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The Nevada Department of Corrections is investigating a murder at High Desert State Prison, a department spokesperson confirmed to the 8 News Now Investigators.
Lathaniel Hutcherson, 28, died on Sunday. Rudy Herrera, 30, has been identified as a suspect.
Sources said that both inmates were in “segregation cages” to get exercise when Herrera broke out of his enclosure, gained access to the enclosure of Hutcherson, and injured him with a prison-made weapon.
There were warning signs including a recent attack against Hutcherson, according to Paul Lunkwitz who heads the union representing correctional officers, Fraternal Order of Police Nevada C.O. Lodge 21.
The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to the Department of Corrections regarding any possible warning signs and a spokesperson said that the department is looking into the matter.
Lunkwitz also blamed the current shortage of correctional officers and pointed to the unmanned gun post at the time of the alleged murder.
“We’ve been bringing it to supervisors’ attention for a while now that they are running yard with no overwatch from the gun posts,” Lunkwitz said. “They don’t carry guns anymore but they do have launchers and they do have tools that they can utilize. Plus the number one most important part is that they can supervise inmates. That’s not happening. It didn’t happen yesterday and before it got to the point where this individual lost his life.”
There is a staffing shortage of 31% at High Desert State Prison, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.
“When they’re asking to do so much for so little so long, something is going to give,” Lunkwitz said.
The requirement for the department to provide inmates with time outside of their cells has been reiterated in a recent federal court order and legislation passed in Nevada.
“We’ll have to accept the lawsuits I guess until we can make sure that no one is going home in bags,” Lunkwitz said. “The one thing that can never happen is sacrificing safety and security for these other things that really are not life or death. We’re seeing these are life or death, these are life or death issues.”
While the murder investigation is underway, there are concerns about escalating violence inside the prison because Hutcherson and Herrera are of different races.
“Any time it comes to race in prison it becomes a much larger issue much faster than you can control it,” Lunkwitz said.
Hutcherson was serving time for robbery and would have completed his sentence by December of 2028, according to the Department of Corrections’ website.
Herrera is currently serving time for attempted murder and robbery with an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon.
He would have been released by December of 2031, according to the department. He could now face a murder charge.
NDOC is actively recruiting to fill correctional officer positions. Fourteen recruits recently entered the academy, a spokesperson said.
Pay raises are also going into effect. Previously, correctional officers started at $46,000 per year. Starting pay is now $57,000 which is increased to $65,000 after six months, the spokesperson said.
High Desert State Prison is located near Indian Springs which is about a 45-minute drive north of Las Vegas.