Jail tipped about escapeInmate named at least 7 hours before breakout
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
by David Heinzmann, Jeff Coen and Mickey Ciokajlo
At least seven hours before six inmates escaped from the Cook County Jail on Saturday, Chicago police told jail officials that a South Side man had reported he knew of the escape plot and that it involved a knife smuggled into the jail, police and law enforcement sources said Tuesday.
The police report named Michael McIntosh, who was one of the six men who escaped from the jail late Saturday night. The report, filed by the boyfriend of McIntosh's mother, also detailed the tier where the inmate was housed, and said McIntosh was "not afraid to use" a knife that he had recently smuggled into the jail, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the report.
The report adds a new twist to an investigation already complicated by an alleged admission that jail guards allowed the escape.
A spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan confirmed Tuesday that Chicago police did forward the information to the ranking officer at the jail at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and that the officer "called the tier in question" and gave the information to a sergeant.
What happened next with the tip was "under investigation," sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham said.
Sheriff's officials said the tip resurfaced Sunday after it was learned that McIntosh was among the escapees, who have all been captured. But leaders of some law enforcement agencies said they were not told of the information until Tuesday.
Prosecutors filed several felony charges Tuesday night against a guard who is alleged to have told investigators that he helped the prisoners escape in hopes of embarrassing Sheahan and aiding the campaign of a former jail guard running for sheriff.
Officer Darin Gater, 36, an 11-year-veteran, has been held and questioned since early Sunday. Cook County state's attorneys charged him with aggravated arson and possession of contraband in a penal institution--a homemade knife, or shank. Both are felonies punishable by up to 30 years in prison. He was also charged with escape; two counts of aggravated battery to a police officer; bringing contraband--a cellular phone--into a penal institution; and official misconduct.
Sources said with the exception of official misconduct, Gater was charged as being accountable for the actions of the inmates.
Sheahan suspended six other jail guards Tuesday--including the sergeant who allegedly received the McIntosh tip--after they were questioned at length by investigators about whether they were involved in a plot to help the inmates escape.
Part of the investigation was expected to include how the guards handled the tip about McIntosh on Saturday.
Chicago police became involved lat e Saturday morning after Reid Paris, the boyfriend of McIntosh's mother went to St. Bernard's Hospital after a severe beating he said happened at the McIntosh apartment in the 6500 block of South Justine Street in the Englewood neighborhood.
Paris, 43, told police that he had a quarrel with McIntosh's brother, whom he said beat and stomped him, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the report. Then Paris told the officer he had information that Michael McIntosh planned to escape from the jail and that he had managed to smuggle a knife into the jail, according to the source.
Police forwarded the tip to a "Capt. Wright" at the jail, sources said.
"The ranking officer was informed by a Chicago police officer that there was a tip about a possible escape from the Special Incarceration Unit," said Cunningham. "It appears at this time that the officer followed proper procedure and notified personnel on the tier where the escape occurred."
At the Englewood home Tuesday afternoon, Paris said that he had been the one to talk to police at the hospital. He declined to discuss the details of his report.
Jalesha Coles, Gater's fiance, said his attorney and the family would be making a joint statement on Wednesday.
"We will make sure they will pay," she said of jail officials, defending her fiance.
"This is wrong to both of them," she said of her fiance and Remus.
Gater is alleged to have told investigators that the escape plot was intended to help Richard Remus, who is running against Sheahan's chief of staff, Tom Dart, in the March 21 Democratic primary.
The guard, a member of an elite group of guards called the Special Operations Response Team, or SORT, allegedly has told authorities he thought the work life of officers like himself would be improved if Remus, a former SORT leader, were sheriff.
The bold jailbreak unfolded in Division 1 of the jail, the facility's oldest section, on a tier for inmates with discipline problems.
Gater originally told authorities that the incident began when he approached an inmate who was showering alone in a dayroom in Division 1. That inmate overpowered him and was able to open six cells, releasing the men who eventually escaped.
In a later interview with investigators, Gater said another guard approached him about a planned escape, and he agreed to help, sources said.
Remus on Tuesday said he continued to believe that no jail guard would assist in an escape to help his political campaign. He said he believes that Sheahan's office is using anonymous sources to spin the story to deflect criticism from the administration and to assign blame to him.
"These sources are dangerous unless they want to come out in the open and say this is what's happening and this is what it is," Remus said Tuesday. "There's something going on here. It's very, very diabolical."
Remus said the truth may eventuall y come out but, "By then the damage is done."