Four inmates who are considered “extremely dangerous” escaped from a county jail in Ohio early Sunday morning after overpowering two guards, the authorities said.
The inmates used a homemade weapon known as a shank and stole the keys to a corrections officer’s vehicle, which was used in the first part of their escape from the Gallia County Jail, Sheriff Matt Champlin said at a news conference.
He said the inmates, all men, had help from at least one individual on the outside.
The authorities said that a second vehicle was waiting for the inmates about a block from the jail and was later found in an unspecified part of Pennsylvania.
The sheriff said the two female jail officers who were on duty were not seriously injured during the escape, which happened around 12:15 a.m.
The episode prompted a fresh round of criticism of the southern Ohio jail, after a fatal overdose from contraband and an inmate’s suicide in the past month. During the news conference, the mother of an inmate who died confronted the sheriff over the conditions at the jail.
“Some out there are calling for change and I could not agree with you more,” Sheriff Champlin said.
One of the fugitives, Brynn K. Martin, 40, had previously escaped from the same jail, the sheriff said. Court records show he was charged this month with escape.
Public records show Mr. Martin has an extensive criminal record, and had been housed at a correctional facility in another county but was brought back to the jail for a court appearance.
“Bad men continue to try to fight to free themselves and terrorize our community,” Sheriff Champlin said.
The authorities identified the other escapees as Christopher M. Clemente, 24; Troy R. McDaniel Jr., 30; and Lawrence R. Lee III, 29.
Previous charges against them included domestic violence, assault, menacing, drug possession, burglary and unlawful restraint, court records showed.
Sheriff Champlin said the 22-bed jail employs nine full-time corrections officers. It is housed in the basement of the county courthouse in Gallipolis, Ohio, which is about 100 miles southeast of Columbus.
The sheriff said his office has been constrained by the dormitory-type setup of the jail, which is at least 50 years old, as well as the difficulty recruiting officers. He said their salaries are $11 to $15 an hour.
“We are very limited on the modifications we can make on our facility to secure these types of inmates,” Sheriff Champlin said. “I have and I will continue to search for solutions to this problem.”
Sandra E. Garcia contributed reporting.