SONOMA COUNTY (CBS SF) – Five inmates and 16 Sonoma County Jail staff members were treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation after an inmate started a fire in the jail Monday morning, county sheriff’s officials said.
Bernabe Martinez Ramirez, 27, was acting agitated and tying bed sheets on door handles around 9 a.m. to prevent deputies from entering a day room of the jail’s special module for inmates segregated from the general population, sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said.
Ramirez also broke a manual pencil sharpener off of a wall, placed it in a sock, swung it around as a weapon and poured liquid soap on the floor to make it slippery for entering deputies, Crum said.
A Crisis Negotiation Team responded and tried for 40 minutes to calm Ramirez down. Ramirez used an electrical outlet to spark a fire with toilet paper and fed the flames with bed sheets, clothing and wooden cabinetry to create a larger, smokier fire, Crum said.
A sprinkler system was activated, and a Special Response Team comprised of 15 to 20 deputies forced their way into the day room and found Ramirez in the smoke and took him into custody. The tactical team used fire extinguishers to help put out the fire, according to Crum.
Ramirez and the other inmates in the male special module were evacuated to other secure areas of the jail, and Ramirez was taken to a hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, Crum said.
Four other inmates and 16 correctional staff members also went to hospitals for treatment of smoke inhalation. All but one employee have since been cleared from the hospital, Crum said.
Ramirez has been in the jail since June 2, 2017, on felony charges of hit-and-run, obstructing an officer and trying to remove an officer’s weapon. Ramirez also faces an attempted murder charge for allegedly stabbing another inmate in February, Crum said. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
Sheriff’s detectives and the Santa Rosa Fire Department are investigating the jail fire, and Ramirez also could face arson charges, Crum said.