PORT ALLEN — Two West Baton Rouge Parish deputies were suspended without pay Tuesday after an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Office found three work-release inmates were able to get out of the guarded facility to commit a crime in Baton Rouge.
Col. Richie Johnson would not disclose the names of the employees but said one deputy, who has only been working at the work-release facility for four months, was suspended without pay for a day. The other employee, who has worked there for two years, was suspended without pay for 90 days, he said.
“We identified that three of the inmates were absent from the facility during the period of the criminal robbery in Baton Rouge,” Johnson said Tuesday. “The inmates identified a pattern with one of the new guards who was allowing another inmate to do his routine head counts for him. This was just a recipe for disaster.”
Johnson said the Sheriff’s Office already has policies in place that should have prevented this from ever happening. Now the challenge is making sure employees are following them, he added.
“If we could have shown that someone intentionally let them out, then this would have been different,” Johnson said. “That’s what I was worried about. But losing money is not easy for anyone. Losing one day of pay for me is not good.”
As of Tuesday, only one individual, Emanuel Ray Jones, has been identified by Baton Rouge Police as a suspect in a Nov. 8 incident in which a man said he was physically assaulted, kidnapped, robbed and stuffed into the trunk of his car in the parking lot of a Baton Rouge hotel.
But Cpl. Don Coppola, with the Baton Rouge Police Department, said their investigation into the incident is ongoing, and more arrests are possible. Johnson said West Baton Rouge Parish could rebook the inmates into the parish jail on escape charges.
The Sheriff’s Office launched its internal probe into Jones’ escape from the facility after an arrest warrant for the man surfaced Dec. 15.
The Sheriff’s Office was recently assisted in that investigation by agents with the state’s Department of Corrections who Johnson were called in to assist in the “shakedown” of the entire facility.
“We were able to recover some of the items that were taken during the armed robbery,” Johnson explained.
He previously said, according to the official head counts for that night, Jones, 30, was at the facility and should not have been in position to commit the crime in Baton Rouge.
The parish’s work-release facility has been described as a 24-hour operation with military-style dorms, approximately 45 employees and 31 surveillance cameras stationed around the facility.
But authorities were unable to pull images from surveillance cameras because footage is only stored on computer hard drives for a maximum of 12 days and was 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. Official head counts are conducted every two hours, he added.
The only time work-release inmates are allowed freedom from the guarded facility is when they report to their various job assignments throughout the day, he said.
“The shift was short the night the incident occurred because one of the shift supervisors had called in sick,” Johnson said Tuesday. “You had a lot of different factors play into this.”
The warrant for Jones’ arrest says West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s Detective Bryan Doucet contacted Baton Rouge police sometime after the Nov. 8 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.
Johnson has previously said the information came in the form of a tip to the Sheriff’s Office but declined to reveal further details. It led Baton Rouge police to include an image of Jones in a photo lineup of suspects shown to the victim of the assault and kidnapping.
Jones’ arrest warrant 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 after another driver crashed into the back of the victim’s automobile along River Road and Brightside Lane.
Baton Rouge authorities said the victim “positively identified” Jones as the person who beat and then tossed him into the trunk of the victim’s car about 1:50 a.m. Nov. 8.
Jones was assigned to a work-release job at a Gonzales restaurant when the kidnapping and kidnapping occurred outside the Baton Rouge hotel, according to state corrections officials. DOC officials that Jones was transferred from the West Baton Rouge Detention Center to the Hunt Reception and Diagnostic Center on Dec. 14 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.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.