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Several inmates injured in brawl at Los Angeles jail

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Guards at a downtown Los Angeles jail fired rubber pellets and pepper spray to swiftly quell a racially charged brawl involving more than 60 inmates, and six injured prisoners were taken to a hospital, a jail spokesman said.

The altercation between Hispanic and African-American inmates erupted shortly after noon local time in a third-floor recreation area inside Tower One of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail.

Whitmore said sheriff's deputies lobbed pepper spray canisters and "sting ball" grenades, which release a burst of hard-rubber pellets, into the fracas, managing to break up the disturbance in one or two minutes.

"This is something that does occur throughout our jail system from time to time," Whitmore said. "People in our jails are under a lot of tension ... and it does regrettably happen."

Whitmore said six inmates were taken to a hospital, four of them with cuts, bruises and other non-life-threatening injuries. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott told Reuters two of the patients were transported to the hospital in serious condition.

The precise cause of the fight was under investigation, Whitmore said. The Twin Towers facility, one of eight detention centers run by the sheriff's department throughout the county, houses roughly 4,500 inmates, Whitmore said.

The county jail system, the largest in the United States, comprises more than 18,000 prisoners and has long been plagued by overcrowded conditions.

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Eric Walsh and Lisa Shumaker)

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