Friday, May 23, 2014

Honoring a Hero 34 Years Later

As some of you may know, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel conveyed the Medal of Honor to the corrections officers held hostage during the 1980 prison riot. When that ceremony took place in early 2013, some of the families could not be located. Since then we have been working hard on the Old Main revitalization project and trying to contact the families to make sure they understand what is happening with the facility.

Earlier this week we received an email that help put one more piece of the puzzle together. Priscilla Melgar's father, Herman Gallegos, was the work release officer on duty the night of the riot. He and three other officers were attacked outside of Dormitory F, moments after inmates had overpowered officers in Dormitory E next door.

In a struggle, Officer Gallegos was able to escape and ran into Dormitory F where sympathetic inmates hid him. After about three hours in terrifying conditions, Officer Gallegos spotted a chance to escape and took it. Dressed in an inmates uniform, he was able to walk out unnoticed. Here is a picture of him with the Archbishop at the time moments after his escape.

We now know that shortly after his escape rioters broke into a protective custody unit, Cellblock 4, and murdered 16 inmates from that area. By the time the 36 hour riot ended, 33 inmates were dead, approximately 100 more had been beaten and/or raped. Another 100 or so needed treatment for overdosing on medication taken from the medical unit.

Every officer came out alive, but some were severely injured and all would never forget what they had lived through.

We were honored to recognize Officer Gallegos at the graduation of class 307 Thursday. His family was given his Medal of Honor.
We honor and respect the officers over the decades who have worked in dangerous environments to keep us safe!