LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Two inmates both escaped from separate “segregation cages” moments before they fought and one died last Sunday, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections. Lathaniel Hutcherson, 28, was pronounced dead. Rudy Herrera, 30, has been identified as a suspect.
Hutcherson and Herrera both climbed up the interior of the chain-link enclosures which they were in for outdoor time and exercise, popped the tops loose, and climbed out to confront each other, the department said. Hutcherson had a weapon made of wire while Herrera had a prison-made shank, according to the department.
The deadly incident sheds light on a severe staffing shortage and infrastructure problems inside Nevada state prisons.
Sources told the 8 News Now Investigators that a gun tower where a staff member would have had oversight of the area was not staffed.
“We’ve been bringing it to supervisors’ attention for a while now that they are running yard with no overwatch from the gun posts,” Paul Lunkwitz said in an interview with the 8 News Now Investigators on Monday. Lunkwitz is the president of the union representing correctional officers, Fraternal Order of Police Nevada C.O. Lodge 21. “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.
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.
“When they’re asking to do so much for so little so long, something is going to give,” Lunkwitz said.
In an order issued in March, U. S. District Judge Cristina Silva wrote that Jesse Aron Ross, an inmate at High Desert State Prison did not receive an adequate amount of exercise time which resulted in a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. She mandated seven hours of outdoor exercise per week for Ross, subject to temporary limitations when a genuine emergency arises.
Ross had filed a civil rights complaint in June 2022.
Ross is serving a life sentence for being a habitual offender, according to the Department of Corrections. He began serving his sentence in 2011 after a conviction in Nye County for statutory sexual seduction, open or gross lewdness, and sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age.
Senate Bill 307 was then approved by Governor Joe Lombardo in June. It prohibits the Department of Corrections from placing an offender in solitary confinement for more than 15 days if certain requirements including reviews are not met.
Lunkwitz said that this requires additional work, staff, and resources which the department does not have. This includes additional “segregation cages.”
A department spokesperson said that enclosures made of expanded metal would help prevent inmates from escaping. However, expanded metal enclosures are estimated at five times the cost of the chain link structures currently in use, the spokesperson said.
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.
Hutcherson was serving time for robbery and would have completed his sentence by December of 2028, according to the Department of Corrections’ website.
There were warning signs including a recent attack against Hutcherson, according to Lunkwitz. A spokesperson said that the department is looking into the matter.
An initial investigation revealed that Hutcherson had owed debts to two separate gangs inside the prison, the 8 News Now Investigators have learned. He was previously in a Behavioral Modification Program at the prison and had been recently moved to a regular segregation unit due to safety concerns after he owed the first debt, according to the department.
On Tuesday, High Desert State Prison remained on lockdown due to the investigation.
High Desert State Prison is located near Indian Springs which is about a 45-minute drive north of Las Vegas.
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.