Inmate escaped despite warning
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
by FRANK MAIN AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters
Chicago Police tipped a Cook County Jail captain on Satur day that inmate Michael McIntosh was planning an escape, but McIntosh and five others still managed to break out of their maximum-security tier just hours later, officials said.
The jail captain who took the call from Chicago Police appears to have acted properly in relaying the tip to the Special Operations Response Team that guards the tier where McIntosh and the others were held, said Bill Cunningham, a spokesman for Sheriff Michael Sheahan.
Investigators are trying to figure out what actions, if any, were taken after the captain relayed the tip to the SORT unit, Cunningham said.
On Tuesday, six correctional officers were suspended with pay because they are subjects of the sheriff's internal investigation of Saturday's jail break, Cunningham said.
Sources said one of those guards, a 36-year-old ex-Marine, has admitted he helped the inmates escape to give a political boost to a former jail supervisor, Richard Remus, who is running for Sheahan's post in t he March 21 Democratic primary.
Prosecutors on Tuesday night charged that correctional officer, Darin Gater, with a variety of offenses, and he is due in court today.
About 3:35 p.m. Saturday, the jail received the tip from Chicago Police that McIntosh was planning to escape, authorities said.
The tip originally came from a man named Reid Paris, who claimed he was attacked by McIntosh's brother, Maurice McIntosh, in the 6500 block of South Justine, officials said.
Paris went to St. Bernard Hospital, where officers took a report saying he was knocked to the floor during an argument with Maurice McIntosh. Paris also told officers that Michael McIntosh was planning to escape, officials said. Chicago Police contacted Sheriff's Capt. Michael L. Wright, who passed on the tip to the SORT unit, authorities said.
Some remain skeptical
Michael McIntosh, who was facing a charge of aggravated ba ttery with a firearm, was nabbed Sunday night in the 10600 block of South Aberdeen. Two other inmates were arrested Sunday morning in Oak Park. Three more surrendered to police after a standoff in Cicero.
Sheahan, who had prided himself on running the jail for 10 years without a single escape, has been stung with three separate break-outs since last June. He's retiring and supports his chief of staff, Tom Dart, in the March election.
Remus denies any connection to the escape plot and said he thinks sheriff's investigators coached Gater into saying he was trying to give Remus an advantage over Dart by helping the inmates escape.
Gater, a member of the SORT unit Remus once led, has given a Cook County assistant state's attorney a handwritten statement saying he "did not think it would get this big, maybe one or two guys escaping," a law enforcement source said. "He indicated he did not think it would get this out of hand."
Another source said Gater expect ed the inmates would get caught before they got off the jail property. Gater admitted to being part of a larger plot, involving multiple guards, and said he didn't want to be the only one to take the fall as he was simply part of a broader plan, the source said.
Still, one official close to the investigation said, "I'm absolutely not convinced with the Remus angle. That's one of the problems I'm having. At best, I think it was a hope that it would assist Remus. But I cannot and do not believe anybody would be that stupid that they wouldn't realize their heads would roll if something bad happened on their watch."
Gater originally told investigators he was overpowered in a shower by a knife-wielding inmate who threw soapy water in his face.
Gater later admitted he handcuffed himself and the inmate donned his uniform, sources said.
The inmate, Patrell Doss, opened the other inmates' cells. They set fire to a mattress and flooded the tier to create a diversi on.
Then Doss identified himself as a guard and asked the responding correctional officers to open the door to the tier.
Charged with official misconduct
The inmates overpowered the officers and escaped using keys they found on a table in the tier, authorities said. All of them but Doss got away.
The keys never should have been kept inside the SI2 Special Incarceration Unit, where the "worst of the worst" inmates are housed, officials said.
Gater was charged with bringing contraband (his cell phone) into a penal institution, as well as one count of escape, two counts of aggravated battery to a correctional officer -- stemming from inmates using chains to assault two officers -- and official misconduct, all felonies, said John Gorman, a spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office.
He also was charged with one count of aggravated arson and one count of possessing contrab and in a penal institution, specifically a homemade knife known as a "shank," Gorman said. A law enforcement source explained that those felonies don't necessarily mean Gater set anything on fire or brought the shank into the jail, but that he was allegedly "complicit" in those aspects of the escape.
Meanwhile, a 27-year-old mother remained in custody Tuesday as investigators tried to determine if she harbored three of the escapees in a Cicero apartment or if she was simply a hostage, sources said.
The last of those three inmates surrendered early Monday after about six hours of negotiations with sheriff's police. The woman's five children, ages 1 to 8, were in the apartment during the ordeal.
The father of the children has said the sister-in-law of Francisco Romero, one of the escapees in the Cicero apartment, had dropped the three inmates off there.
Authorities said they w ere continuing to investigate Tuesday if up to three guards and three civilians played a role in the inmates' escape.
Mayor Daley weighed in on the escape Tuesday, saying he was astounded a guard might help inmates get out of jail simply to embarrass someone politically. Daley supports Dart, who was the field coordinator on the mayor's 1999 campaign.
"That is very, very dangerous," Daley said. "You're putting police officers at large, families at large, even police officers and guards over there [at risk]. If you leave someone escape for political purposes, it doesn't matter how many guards you have."
Contributing: Lisa Donovan, Abdon M. Pallasch, Steve Patterson and Fran Spielman