NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Sheriff Marlin Gusman said the investigation into how an inmate escaped the custody of his deputies and made it to the ledge of an elevated wall of the old parish prison before threatening to jump is still under investigation. And there are a lot of questions about how such an incident could happen.
Meanwhile, City Hall criticized Gusman for pointing fingers at Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration over the security between the prison and the criminal courthouse at Tulane and Broad.
OPP inmate Devontay Jenkins attracted a lot of attention Tuesday morning and was captured on news cameras atop a wall.
"Of course, it's concerning when you look at his history," said Freddy Yoder, who is a board member of the Lakeview Crime Prevention District.
Part of the reason Jenkins is behind bars is because of what police said happened in the Lakeview. Jenkins is accused of going on a car burglary spree in there in mid-June and was arrested on charges related to 12 vehicle burglaries. Yoder said those crimes left people unnerved.
"It was extremely unnerving because that's one thing that we focus on from month to month, and it's the largest part - 96 percent of all the crime in Lakeview has to do with auto burglaries, so when our forces were able to apprehend him and bring down, or at least charge an individual with 12 counts of those auto burglaries, it made us feel better about the progress that we were making," Yoder said.
Jenkins is also a suspect in a shooting in another part of town and faces weapons and other charges.
"He's a bad individual. He's not the type of individual that you want on the street, but those things happen. It was an isolated situation. It doesn't happen every day and you have to look at it as such," said Yoder.
While the sheriff said the probe into the incident continues, the statement released by his office does not state whether deputies followed all security protocols in handling Jenkins.
However, Gusman's statement said Jenkins was restrained with ankle shackles and handcuffs when he was transported to a holding area for a court appearance. According to the sheriff, Jenkins requested a bathroom break, but walked past a portable toilet and entered a stairwell in a secure area and finally exited onto a wall of the old jail facility which is no longer being used.
"There's insufficient numbers of deputies to supervise the current inmate population. The sheriff is contending that that is a result of inadequate pay to deputies," said Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Gusman's statement said deputies and medical personnel talked Jenkins down from the wall, and the incident was resolved in less than an hour.
The sheriff also took aim at the Landrieu administration. His statement said for more than two years, a court-appointed committee that includes city government representatives has studied proposals for making the area more secure.
"In the last two years, the City has not acted on any of the significant recommendations created by the Docks Committee," Gusman's statement reads.
"This docks issue has been festering for years. The money is available, this should have been built years ago, it probably would have prevented today's event from occurring, I think we're fortunate that something more serious hasn't transpired because the monitors have testified in the consent decree hearing repeatedly about the potential security risk involving the old docks," said Goyeneche.
The Landrieu Administration issued its own statement in response:
"The excuses are becoming absurd. This individual was in the care, custody and control of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office during this transfer when this attempted escape occurred. We will continue to work with the Court and Sheriff's Office on a plan to use FEMA funds to renovate the docks as is set forth in the recent settlement agreement. The City previously proposed $3.7 million in FEMA money to renovate the docks as part of larger public safety improvement capital plan, including housing needs for mental health and medical inmates as well as youth offenders. The City is committed to finalizing a comprehensive plan to address all of these improvements, and we are hopeful that the Sheriff's Office will work with us as public safety is our top priority."
Others also criticized the sheriff's leadership.
"The incident demonstrates a lack of control that threatens safety of people housed at OPP and our broader community," said Katie Schwartzmann of the New Orleans office of the MacArthur Justice Center, which represents a class of inmates.
The inmate, Jenkins, was taken to the sheriff's office medical clinic for observation.