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Girlfriend blamed for gun in jail
Officials suspect shooting of inmates a ploy to sue county

Monday, February 06, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Jeff Coen

A woman who visited the Cook County Jail late last month was charged Sunday with sneaking into the facility a handgun that authorities said was used to shoot three inmates in a maximum-security division there on Wednesday.

Randi White, 21, was to appear Monday at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building for a bond hearing, said John Gorman, spokesman for State's Atty. Richard Devine.

Authorities described White as a girlfriend of one of the wounded inmates.

White was charged with bringing contraband into a penal institution, Gorman said. In this case, that contraband was a firearm, making the charge a felony punishable by at least 6 years in prison if she is convicted, he said.

After a series of interviews with inmates, investigators believe the shooting was staged as part of a plan to file a lawsuit against the county, sources close to the investigation said. Interviews with inmates and witnesses continued through the weekend and were to go on this week.

White, of the 3800 block of West Wellington Avenue, who recently moved to Chicago from Covington, Tenn., was arrested late Saturday without incident.

Injured in the shooting in the cell in Division 11 of the jail were Gregory Sherman, 27, of Chicago; Terry Martin, 28, of Dolton; and Lorenzo Evans, 27, of Chicago. Sources close to the investigation identified White as a girlfriend of Sherman's.

She had visited the jail the week of Jan. 23, investigators said, and apparently was able to get the weapon--an older model .32-caliber snub-nose revolver--past security.

The allegations were expected to be detailed Monday during the 1 p.m. hearing in the Criminal Courts Building.

Cook County sheriff's police have said they were suspicious of the shooting because all three inmates involved had only minor injuries and the gun was found with them.

It was believed unlikely that the three men would have been shot in a fight at such close range and received only superficial wounds.

On Friday, sheriff's police spokesman Bill Cunningham said the inmates were being considered suspects in whatever had occurred. On Sunday, Cunningham said he could not comment further on the investigation.

Sources said the probe was not completed with the arrest of White. None of the three injured inmates was charged by late Sunday in the alleged plan to set up and carry out the shooting.

No guards were threatened with the gun.

During the shooting, Sherman, who was awaiting sentencing for armed robbery and other convictions, was grazed on his elbow. Martin, awaiting trial in a murder, was hit in the upper calf. Evans, also jailed on murder charges, was shot in the left thigh. All three were treated at nearby hospitals.

A guard found the men, who shared a cell, lying on the deck of the second floor outside the cell, sheriff's officials said. The cell's lock had been intentionally jammed open, authorities said.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been attempting to trace the origin and ownership of the FIE Titanic revolver used in the shooting.

Sheriff's officials and an expert on the jail have said they could not recall a firearm ever being discharged inside the facility, which houses about 10,000 inmates.

In January, a Cook County jury convicted jail guard Kenyatta Sanders of attempting to smuggle a .38-caliber revolver into the jail in 2003.

In 1984, six inmates escaped when they overpowered guards using two revolvers that had been carried into the jail by a paramedic. The paramedic hid the guns in a blood-pressure kit.

The investigation into Wednesday's shootings was intended to examine whether a guard or another employee could have aided the smuggling of the weapon into the jail, Cunningham said.

Last summer, inmate Randy Rencher walked out of the jail wearing a guard's uniform and went on a multistate bank-robbery spree, authorities said. After he was caught in Ohio, Rencher said he bribed a jail guard who aided him in his escape, authorities said.

Cunningham said the sheriff's office was still waiting for Rencher to agree to be interviewed about the allegation. So far, the sheriff's office has found no evidence that guards helped Rencher, he said.

Last month, another inmate who had just been taken from jail for court walked away from a sheriff's deputy in the lockup area of a seventh-floor courtroom at the Criminal Courts Building.

Another deputy stopped the inmate as he was walking toward an exit on the first floor after he had turned his corrections uniform inside out.

That incident also remained under investigation last week.



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