News Releases

High Desert State Prison Officials Investigate the Death of an Inmate as a Homicide

SUSANVILLE – Officials at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) are investigating the May 1 death of 65-year-old Michael M. Ramadanovic as a homicide.

Last Friday at approximately 10:45 a.m. inmates Rodney Rice and Robert Smith attacked Ramadanovic with inmate-manufactured weapons on the Facility C yard. Officers immediately responded by using chemical agents and issuing a warning shot from the Mini-14 rifle and to quell the incident.

Ramadanovic suffered multiple puncture wounds to his chest, back, head and neck. He was immediately taken to the prison’s medical facility and life-saving measures were given. A doctor pronounced him deceased at 11:11 a.m. His next of kin was notified.

Officers recovered two metal inmate-manufactured weapons at the crime scene. No staff members were injured.

Ramadanovic, 65, was admitted on Jan. 9, 1988, from Merced County to serve life without parole for first-degree murder. He also received a six-year sentence last October in Lassen County for assault with a deadly weapon, an in-prison offense.

The Lassen County District Attorney’s Office is assisting HDSP’s Investigative Services Unit in the investigation. The Office of the Inspector General has been notified. A Deadly Force Investigations Team (DFIT) at California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation headquarters is also investigating this incident. DFIT is a team of trained CDCR investigators that conducts criminal and administrative investigations into every use of deadly force. A deadly force review board will conduct a full and complete review of the incident as well.

Rice and Smith were placed in segregated housing pending an investigation. Inmate movement on Facility C was limited to facilitate the investigation.

Rice, 28, was received from Riverside County on Dec. 9, 2016, sentenced to three years for evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly and was serving a 2019 sentence from Riverside County for corporal injury on a victim within seven years of a previous specific conviction, his second strike. Since 2014, Rice has served time for prior convictions from Riverside Count for vehicle theft with prior vehicle-theft related convictions, possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, battery, and assault with a deadly weapon.

Smith, 28, was admitted from Tuolumne County on Aug. 20, 2018, to serve two years, eight months for evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly, his second strike. He was also sentenced in San Joaquin County in May 2019 to serve two years for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, an in-prison offense. On March 16, 2020, Smith was sentenced in Tuolumne County for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

HDSP, located in Lassen County, opened in 1995 and houses 3,283 minimum-, medium-, and maximum-custody inmates. The prison provides academic classes, vocational instruction, work assignments and rehabilitation programs and employs more than 1,200 people.


CONTACT:  Lt. Celina Cervantes, (530) 251-5100 ext. 5501