A tip that a West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s detective passed along to Baton Rouge police led to a work-release inmate being accused of kidnapping and threatening to kill a man in a Baton Rouge hotel parking lot last month, police reports show.
The inmate, Emanuel Ray Jones, had been assigned to the West Baton Rouge Detention Center, and paperwork indicated he was accounted for in a head count at the facility during the early morning hours of Nov. 8, when the kidnapping incident took place.
Now, officials with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office say they are interviewing the staff at the facility to determine if someone allowed Jones and other inmates out without supervision.
The warrant for Jones’ arrest says West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s Detective Bryan Doucet contacted Baton Rouge police sometime after the kidnapping incident and said he had the names of three work-release inmates the office suspected might have escaped and committed a crime in Baton Rouge.
Col. Richie Johnson, a spokesman for the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, would not say Thursday when the office received the tip or from whom it received it, but it led Baton Rouge police to include an image of Jones in a photo lineup of suspects.
Baton Rouge authorities said the victim “positively identified” Jones, 30, as the person who beat and then tossed him into the trunk of the victim’s car about 1:50 a.m. Nov. 8.
West Baton Rouge Parish authorities were still conducting an internal investigation Thursday into whether Jones somehow escaped the Port Allen facility to commit the crime or got out with help from someone on the inside.
Johnson said that, according to the official head counts for that night, Jones was at the facility and should not have been in position to commit the crime in Baton Rouge.
“At this point, we’re in the process of interviewing every deputy working because they’re supposed to be doing physical head counts every two hours,” Johnson said. “Meaning, they’re suppose to actually go in and place their hands on a person.”
If any employees of the Sheriff’s Office are found to have been negligent or somehow involved, Johnson said,“they will be facing severe disciplinary action.”
Johnson described the parish’s work-release facility as a 24-hour operation with military-style dorms, approximately 45 employees and 31 surveillance cameras stationed around the facility.
However, images from surveillance cameras are stored on computer hard drives for a maximum of only 12 days, Johnson said, and were no longer available for review by the time information surfaced about the inmates possibly being involved in a crime.
The work-release facility’s entrance and exits are not locked, but Johnson said they are manned by armed guards throughout the day. There were four guards on duty the night of Nov. 8, he said.
The only time work-release inmates are allowed freedom from the guarded facility is when they report to their various job assignments, he said.
“And we physically take them to their job sites and pick them up,” Johnson said. “It’s part of our contract with employers that they be supervised at all times while at work.”
Jones was assigned to a work-release job at a Gonzales restaurant when the kidnapping and threat occurred outside the Baton Rouge hotel, according to state corrections officials. They said Wednesday that Jones was transferred from the West Baton Rouge Detention Center on Monday to the Hunt Reception and Diagnostic Center because he was terminated from his job Dec. 2.
Jones, who has yet to be booked in the Nov. 8 incident, faces new counts of armed robbery, carjacking, aggravated battery, second-degree kidnapping and felon in possession of a firearm.
He had been serving a 10-year sentence starting in 2011 on charges out of St. Tammany Parish of possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon by a felon, according to previous reports.
Jones’ arrest warrant, issued Dec. 15, identifies him as one of two people accused of luring the victim to the parking lot outside the Radisson Hotel at 2445 S. Acadian Thruway in Baton Rouge. Jones “came out of nowhere with a gun” and demanded the victim’s property, the document says.
Jones punched the man in the torso and pistol-whipped him in the face before stuffing him into the trunk, the warrant says, and the victim heard Jones talking about “finding a place to go kill him.”
The warrant says Jones’ plan was spoiled when the victim was able to escape when another driver crashed into the back of the victim’s automobile along River Road and Brightside Lane.
Cpl. Don Coppola, with the Baton Rouge Police Department, said Thursday investigators are still trying to piece together the motive behind the attempted kidnapping.
“We would like to find out anything we can if there is a connection. If so, what is it?” Coppola said. “If not, how did this come about as it did?”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.