Mariposa Co. inmate seriously injures himself in escape attempt

February 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Crews spent hours at the courthouse Thursday cleaning up blood and repairing the damage. The door on the second floor is where authorities say an inmate facing drug charges made a dangerous escape attempt that could have cost him his life.

A cleaning company removed the blood on and below this balcony and workers replaced the shattered window after authorities say Jerry Richards smashed through the glass of one of the double doors in an effort to escape.

Joel Bibby, Mariposa County Undersheriff said, "When he was trying to leave through the upstairs balcony he cut himself on the window as he was going through."

Undersheriff Joel Bibby says two officers and a bailiff were escorting six inmates out of the courtroom and down the narrow stairs when Richards made a run for the door. The officers grabbed him shortly after he crashed into the glass. Jim Tucker saw the scene from his house across the street.

Jim Tucker of Mariposa said, "I saw a bunch of people standing around somebody who was laying on their back. Their feet were sticking out toward me from that second floor rear door of the courthouse."

A helicopter flew Richards to a Modesto hospital for emergency surgery. Authorities say the 59-year-old was in court for a hearing on drug charges and was offered a plea deal that would have sent him to jail for a matter of months. The sheriff's office is now reviewing the incident.

"We're plannning to have an after action report just to see if there's anything we can do different or better," said Bibby. "From the appearance of it, I think we did a fine job."

But Bibby acknowledges this nearly 160 year old courthouse poses some challenges for law enforcement.

Bibby said, "We have to move inmates who are in leg irons up and down the stairwells so it does cause problems for us, but it is what we have and we are working with."

County workers put plexi-glass in the broken door as a temporary fix, but it will eventually be replaced with the proper type of glass for this building, which is on the national register of historic places.

As for Richards, his condition has not been released, but authorities say he will likely face additional charges for trying to escape if and when he recovers.


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