Surveillance video depicts Whatcom County Jail riot

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — An inmate riot on Wednesday night nearly destroyed a whole cell block of the Whatcom County Jail. 

Sheriff Bill Elfo says a group of six inmates went on a rampage, smashing everything in their path and making weapons out of anything they could grab.

Surveillance video taken inside the second-story cell block depicts how quickly the situation escalated. 

The inmates pulled out the ventilation system, then used the broken metal to smash interior windows. They flooded toilets and pried cell door locks. They also attempted to break through an exit door, but were stopped by an emergency response team. 

"They threw shampoo on the floor so when the deputies approached the door it made a slippery surface," Elfo said. 

Officers stood behind glass doors for their own safety. 

One inmate was taken to the hospital and treated for a leg injury. There were no other injuries. 

The group caused about $10,000 in damage in about an hour. 

The inmates who were involved in the riot are all in jail for a variety of violent crimes, including assault and robbery. Elfo said that they had been complaining about spending too much time in their cells. 

The inmates involved in the riot were all put in isolation on Thursday night.

"In the last 10 years, this is the first disturbance of this magnitude that we've had in the jail, and certainly the only one with inmates acting in concert with one another," Elfo said. 

The jail was already over-capacity when the incident happened. Now that a whole cell block has been damaged, officers may have to ask judges to release some inmates early. 

Elfo said that the short time in which the inmates were able to tear the building apart illustrates how weak the aging facility is. 

"We make a lot of bad investments in this building," Elfo said. "We're just trying to hold it together until a new facility is built." 

A new jail, which Elfo has been working with county leaders for months to plan, could cost tens of millions of dollars.