Agents from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation are expected to arrive at the Trumbull County Jail today to examine the area where three inmates held a corrections officer at knifepoint for five hours on Wednesday.
That area, an isolation pod, has been marked off as a crime scene since the standoff that started just after 3 p.m. ended around 8:30 p.m.
At a Thursday news conference at the county jail, Trumbull County Sheriff Tom Altiere confirmed that the case has been handed over to BCI. He said the investigation was just starting.
Altiere said his office will confer with state agents and the county prosecutor’s office to determine what criminal charges to levy against the inmates.
He said corrections officer Joe Lynn, who was not hurt, is on paid administrative leave, and it is not clear when he will return to work.
Altiere said the inmates’ motive is unclear, but officials do not believe they targeted Lynn.
Lynn has worked at the jail about a year and was doing routine rounds when he was jumped just after a shift change.
However, inmate David Martin, who appeared to be the ringleader on Wednesday, told a Cleveland news station during the standoff that he was upset about local media reports about his case. Martin is from the Cleveland area.
Last month, Chris Becker, an assistant county prosecutor, asked a common pleas judge to have Martin shackled during his capital murder trial, saying Martin blurted out a threat heard by corrections officers at the jail.
According to an inner-jail incident report, Lynn informed another officer that Martin had remarked, “When I go to trial I’m going to grab the first gun I can when I have chance to. I’m not going to death row.”
The report cautioned, “All officers need to use extreme caution when dealing with (Martin) due to the nature of his charges and for the safety and security of the staff and facility.”
Routinely, inmates wear civilian clothing and are unshackled and not wearing handcuffs while they are in court.
Altiere said any possible motive, that report or the statements in it are “inconsequential to what happened” on Wednesday.
Martin is accused of killing 21-year-old Jeremy Cole and wounding Melissa Putnam on Sept. 27, 2012, at a home on Oak Circle S.W. He could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder charge and the aggravated circumstances. He also faces firearms specifications on counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and a repeat violent offender specification, having weapons while under disability, receiving stolen property because it is alleged he used a stolen gun, and tampering with evidence because he tried to burn his clothes.
Inmates Kevin Johns and Richard Ware were also involved in the standoff. Johns was sentenced on April 18 to 28 years behind bars for raping a local woman and kidnapping another woman about a year ago. Ware has three different aggravated robbery cases pending in Trumbull Common Pleas court.
Altiere said the investigation into the standoff could last several weeks or several months. He said officials are looking at what changes might need to be made at the jail. They are considering changing of the handles on the inside of the doors in the pods.
On Wednesday, the inmates used knotted sheets to hold the door, the only entrance to the pod, closed so no one could come in.
The inmates jumped Lynn, held a handmade knife-like object to his throat and took his radio and cellphone. Altiere said the pod where Lynn was held has a common area with two jail cells upstairs and two downstairs. He said it appears the shank was made out of plastic silverware, but because the area is sectioned off, local officials have not had a chance to examine any of the evidence including the weapon.
Altiere said the inmates are watched via cameras that show what is going on in the common area of each pod. There are no cameras in the sleeping areas. He noted inmates have a lot of time on their hands to plan.
Altiere credited Warren police Lt. Jeff Cole, who was called in as a negotiator, with diffusing the situation and working towards securing everyone’s safety.
“We had such good mutual aid and support from so many agencies. We learned mutual aid in a situation like this is necessary,” Altiere said.
He said he does not know why the inmates wanted to be moved to another facility – one of the few demands he said they made. “We have pretty good food,” he said.
They also asked for cigarettes. Altiere said they were given three.