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December 8, 2005 - Associated Press

LA Jail Inmate Murdered Because Of Misunderstanding

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Prosecutors said they believe a jail inmate was stomped to death in an unsupervised room last month because other prisoners mistakenly thought he was an informant.

A pair of gang members apparently targeted Chadwick Shane Cochran, 35, after seeing him being escorted by sheriff's deputies, according to the district attorney's office.

Officials initially believed the attack occurred after Cochran cut in front of the gang members in a dinner line.

Christian Perez, 18, and Heriberto Eddie Rodriguez, 24, were charged Wednesday with Cochran's torture and murder. They could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Cochran, who had mental problems, was in jail for a nonviolent offense.

The attack occurred Nov. 16 in a room filled with 30 inmates who were unsupervised and could not be seen by deputies from outside.

Officials said the assailants screamed "Snitch!" while beating and stomping Cochran for up to a half-hour.

None of the other 27 inmates tried to stop the attack.

Cochran's was the eighth killing in the Los Angeles County jail system in two years.

By placing Cochran in the general inmate population, the jail violated its policy of segregating inmates with possible mental problems.

A 2004 report also recommended that the sheriff begin segregating violent inmates from nonviolent ones.

"I haven't investigated this myself, but what it suggests to me is a cascade of errors," said Merrick Bobb, the special monitor who advises county supervisors on Sheriff's Department matters.

"If so, it's very much like the five inmate deaths that led to the 2004 report. It wasn't just one guy messing up one thing, it was a systemic failure."

Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday that the Sheriff's Department was working on a plan to segregate violent gang members.

Perez is awaiting trial on a murder charge. Rodriguez is a San Fernando Valley gang member who is awaiting trial on kidnapping and carjacking charges, according to court records and prosecutors.

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