Authorities: Inmate trusty may have helped man escape jail

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. - The Fulton County Sheriff's Office is investigating how an inmate was able to escape from the county's north Fulton Annex in Alpharetta Tuesday.

The county's chief jailer told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik Michael Shawn Wilson breached three doors and an exterior fence, and was captured about eight minutes after he left the facility in a wooded area near an adjacent apartment complex.

"The inmate made a bad decision," said Maj. Reuben Wingfield, jail operations commander.

Wingfield told Petchenik that Wilson had been booked into the jail earlier Tuesday on traffic charges. He told Petchenik an initial investigation determined an inmate trusty may have helped Wilson escape by propping open the doors while the trusty took out the trash.

"There was possibly a reward," said Wingfield, who added charges could be pending against the still unnamed trusty.

A source tells Channel 2 Action News that a deputy was escorting the trusty at the time and might have erred by positioning himself in front of the trusty instead of behind him.

Wingfield said he believes jail staff handled the situation properly and, along with Alpharetta police, were quick to apprehend Wilson.

Wingfield confirmed what sources told Petchenik and Channel 2's Mark Winne that one of the breached doors had a malfunctioning lock on it. He said the door could be locked manually, but not automatically.

Wingfield said, however, the malfunction likely wouldn't have aided in the escape because the trusty had propped a door that jail staff opened for him to remove the trash.

Alpharetta assistant city administrator James Drinkard told Petchenik Sheriff's officials notified the city, which owns the facility, in February that several automatic locks had malfunctioned inside the jail.

"It's a non-emergency repair because the locks themselves actually work, but you have to use a key to lock and unlock the door," Drinkard said.

Drinkard told Petchenik the city immediately put out a request for proposal from vendors to fix the automatic locks. The City Council was scheduled to vote on a contract May 20, Drinkard said.

Wingfield told Petchenik the city has fixed the malfunctioning lock on one of the doors Wilson allegedly breached and the sheriff's office has re-checked the facility.

"They have assured us this facility is safe at this particular time," he said.

Wilson is facing additional felony charges of obstruction and escape. He's being held at the Fulton County jail on Rice Street. Officials said this escape was the first in the seven years Fulton County has operated the facility.



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