COVID face mask may have helped Denver inmate escape

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DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver inmate who was mistakenly released Sunday afternoon may have received help from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-year-old Jerrol Jones walked out of the Denver Detention Center around 1 p.m. and the Problem Solvers have learned he never lowered his face mask to deputies during the release process.

“Thirty-year old Jerrol Jones utilized information from another inmate to manipulate our protocols  and escape yesterday afternoon,” newly appointed Sheriff Elias Diggins said.

The sheriff said Jones pretended to be another inmate who was due to be released and used personal information about the other inmate into tricking deputies into releasing him.

FOX31 has learned the inmate Jones pretended to be is Donne Allen. Sheriff Diggins told the Problem Solvers Denver Police have questioned Allen but court records show he has since been released from custody after being booked for first degree criminal trespass-auto. His booking sheet describes him as a 21-year-old black male, 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds.

Donne Allen

Jerrol Jones is 30 years old, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and weighs 130 pounds according to his booking information.  

Jerrol Jones

“We do as a part of our release process, check personal identifiers including  photos but again based on the current investigation and limited information we have thus far we’re not able to comment beyond that,” Sheriff Diggins said during a Monday morning press conference.

By Monday afternoon Sheriff Diggings confirmed to FOX31 that the department’s fingerprint system (known as Morpho) wasn’t working properly Sunday afternoon.

Morpho is supposed to identify an inmate during release by comparing his right index finger with the fingerprint on file. Sheriff Elias Diggins tells FOX31 the issue of how long the Morpho system has been working intermittently is part of the investigation but one sources tells FOX31 it’s been a problem for two weeks. 

The same source tell FOX31 Jones wasn’t noticed missing until 5 p.m. Sunday during an inmate roll call. 

Jones was originally arrested Friday morning in Aurora at his mother’s house for a probation violation. He has past convictions for drug possession and weapons violations.

His mother Ronda Jones, told the Problem Solvers she last spoke to her son Sunday morning when he called her from the Downtown Detention Center. She said law enforcement never notified her Jerrol Jones was on the run.

“For them to say that he manipulated or that he escaped to me I feel like they’re putting a target on  my son’s back,” Jones said. She told the Problem Solvers her son didn’t escape so much as he was released through department incompetence.

“Clearly it’s a mistake on behalf of the department. There has to be another way to identify inmates before they release them and there is because surely no one can  just walk out of the detention facility, that’s not possible,” Jones said.

Sheriff Diggins said he has five fugitive teams looking for Jones, who he said should be considered armed and dangerous.  

“It is the top priority for the Denver Sheriff’s Department today, on my first day,” Sheriff Diggins said, who marked Monday as his first official day as the department’s new Sheriff one week after being appointed to the position by Mayor Michael Hancock.

“Mr. Jones please turn yourself in for the safety of our community,” Sheriff Diggins said.

The unintentional release of Jerrol Jones has already led to a policy change. FOX31 obtained an email that went to all deputies on Monday. It states, “Effectively immediately, housing unit deputies shall verify all inmates’ JMS (jail management system) personal identifiers and JMS booking photos prior to the inmate being sent to release. The deputy shall have the inmate briefly remove his/her mask to view the inmate’s face and to cross reference with the JMS photo.”

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