Informant foils Denver jail escape

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DENVER -- A plan by four inmates to escape from the Denver Detention Center downtown may have been foiled by an informant.

When the Problem Solvers first reached out to the Denver Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, FOX31 was told the plan wasn't credible and the Sheriff's Department questioned why FOX31 would even report the contents of an internal document that had been shared with the Problem Solvers.

By Wednesday, the Sheriff's Department was telling the Problem Solvers not to report the incident because it might compromise an ongoing investigation.

FOX31 has now decided to report what it has learned because investigators have had three days to question inmates and because the informant's information was corroborated by what deputies found in jail cell 103.

It was Monday around  2 p.m. that an inmate approached a sheriff's deputy about a possible escape attempt being planned by four inmates. FOX31 is not naming the inmates because they have not been charged with attempted escape and doing so might put the inmates at risk but they're in custody for serious charges, including Murder, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping and Assault on a Peace Officer.

According to the informant, the original plan was to escape Saturday night December 15th, when a female deputy would be overseeing 60 male inmates in a pod by herself.

The internal sheriff's report leaked to the Problem Solvers states, "The plan was to knock (female deputy) out, take her keys, radio and place her in the closet."

The Informant stated the four inmates, "Would then take the chair in cell 103 and break the window in the yard and rappelled down the side of the building. Informant did state there was a getaway vehicle loaded with weapons located outside the DDC. That plan for Saturday night fell through."

It's not known why the four inmates decided to scrap the plan for Saturday December 15 but the informant insisted, "The other inmates are planning on escaping sometime between now and Christmas and that they are looking for a day when there would be a small female Deputy in the Pod."

On the afternoon of Monday Dec. 17th  Denver sheriff deputies searched the cells and found no loose chairs or a rope made of sheets tied tight to rappel down the a wall on the Delaware Street side of the downtown jail, which is the perimeter to the recreation yard.

However, deputies on the very next shift at 4 p.m. Monday did find a loose chair that wasn't bolted down in cell 103. The internal report states, "We did not find any other evidence of it being a valid claim other than locating a loose stool in 103 which maintenance removed for us last night. We did move and split up the others just in case there was any validity."

"It`s easy to basically ambush a deputy in the pods, it`s easy," said Michael Jackson, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police #27, the union that represents Denver sheriff deputies.  The Problem Solvers interviewed Jackson  minutes after he walked out of a labor-management meeting where he said department leadership downplayed the security threat posed by the alleged escape plan.

"They downplayed the whole game and we were concerned about it," said Jackson, before adding, "We`ve complained to anybody who will listen that the place is unsafe and we need to work on making it safer."

Jackson says the fact the deputies found a stool that wasn't bolted down in the very cell where the informant said it would be lends credibility to what the  informant was saying, "It was unsecured, it wasn’t bolted down so that’s the scary part of it."

The Sheriff's Department initially told the Problem Solvers that its Intelligence Unit investigated the inmate's claim and found him not to be credible but Jackson scoffed at that telling FOX31 the Sheriff's Department doesn't have a so-called Intelligence Unit. "They don’t have an intelligence team that does that, we know that," said Jackson.

Jackson said union members have been saying for a long time that it's not safe for one deputy to stand guard over 60 inmates in a pod, "It could lead to disaster, we know that."

Jackson says there should be at least two deputies watching over a pod, "We’ve asked for that but we have manpower issues they can’t seem to overcome."

The Denver Sheriff's Department says it meets national standards which suggest one deputy per 48 inmates for high risk populations and  one deputy per 64 inmates for medium to  low risk populations.

On Wednesday evening a department spokeswoman told FOX31 the alleged escape plan is now part of an ongoing investigation that the Denver Sheriff's Department is taking seriously.

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