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First California Prison Employee Dies of Coronavirus

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's state prison system had its first known staff death due to the coronavirus, officials said, as well as the death of the 10th inmate from the virus.

The prison department posted photographs of eight firefighters saluting from atop their trucks and a long procession of law enforcement and first-responder vehicles honoring California Rehabilitation Center Correctional Officer Danny Mendoza, 53.

Mendoza, a 24-year veteran of the department, died Saturday after recently testing positive for the coronavirus, though the official cause of death will be determined by the Riverside County Coroner's Office.

"Officer Mendoza was loved and respected by his peers, he will be greatly missed," Warden Cynthia Tampkins said in a statement.

More than 300 state corrections department employees have tested positive, but more than half of those have returned to work, the department said.

An inmate at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County died Sunday at an outside hospital from what appear to be coronavirus complications, officials said. It would be the 10th such inmate death, all at the same prison where more than 450 inmates have tested positive. The department has nearly 2,000 active cases statewide.

READ ALSO: Inmate Killed At California Health Care Facility in Stockton

Officials did not release more information on the inmate, citing medical privacy rules.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Two inmates were slain at separate prisons on Sunday, officials said Monday.

Officials at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad said they found Elazer Black, 25, bleeding from multiple stab wounds to his upper chest. They identified four suspects in the area and said one, fellow inmate Lamar Shaw, had an inmate-made weapon. They also recovered a second inmate-made weapon.

The victim was serving a 26-year sentence from San Joaquin County for voluntary manslaughter. Shaw, 26, is serving a life term for an Alameda County murder.

Three other inmates also are considered suspects, officials said:

— Ronald Armstrong, 30, serving a life term for a Contra Costa County attempted murder.

— Kevin Moore, 34, serving life for a Solano County murder.

— Asbury Rankins, 44, serving a 17-year sentence from Alameda County for voluntary manslaughter

Hours later, officers at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton found Aaron Coderre, 40, unresponsive in the showers from they said was a wound consistent with being attacked by a weapon.

Fellow inmate Joshua Rudiger, 42, was also in the showers and is considered a suspect, officials said. Both men were serving life sentences, Coderre for an attempted Butte County murder and Rudiger for second-degree murder in San Francisco.

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