After a five-hour ordeal, authorities have confirmed that a hostage standoff at the Trumbull County Jail in Warren ended with the safe release of a corrections officer.
Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere said inmates Kevin Johns, David Martin and Richard Ware were armed with a homemade weapon when they captured a male corrections officer who had walked up to the top floor of jail.
“We were making rounds in the jail when one of our (corrections officers) was taken hostage by three inmates,” Altiere said. “One prisoner came from behind and grabbed him. Then another prisoner came from the front and grabbed him … they got his radio and his handcuffs.
“All of a sudden we knew that we had a hostage situation.”
The officer’s name was not released by authorities, who said only that he is a male in his 30s.
Officers and tactical teams from around the area and Cleveland responded to Altiere’s call for assistance. All told, an estimated 100 officers were on scene during the course of the standoff.
“We called in the FBI, SWAT teams, U.S. Marshals, Ohio State Patrol … when you have something like this, you never know where it’s going to go, so you have to prepare for everything,” Altiere said. “When you’ve got someone with a shank held up to their throat, you can take that (as a serious situation).”
Altiere said the inmates held the officer against his will with the knife-like weapon, while using his phone to call a Cleveland television station and make a demand that they be transferred to another jail.
To prevent entry to the prison pod, the inmates used wound-up sheets tied around a door handle to secure the door to the pod’s common area.
Led by Warren Lt. Jeff Cole, who acted as negotiator, officials spent five hours with the inmates before resolving the situation at around 8:30 p.m. Altiere noted that the inmates had no demands other than asking for cigarettes.
“I have no clue (what Cole did) when he negotiated with the inmates because he’s the boss in that situation,” Altiere said. “All I know is he got them out safely.”
Altiere said that the inmates were to be transported to other facilities overnight, but that it is unknown where they will be taken or if they will all be taken to the same place.
The motive is not yet clear, but Altiere said that it is believed that it was not a random occurrence.
“The inmates were all in the same pod,” Altiere said. “The one guy (Martin) has been been here for a year a half. The way this all went down … they were planning it.”
Altiere said investigators will interview the inmates to try to determine why the officer was targeted. The case will then be handed over to the prosecutor to determine what charges will be filed.
Corrections officers are not armed, and Altiere said that despite Wednesday’s situation, there is not a security issue at the jail. While officers make rounds alone inside the pods, another officer is monitoring security screens at a central location.
“This was just an unfortunate incident,” Altiere said.
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.
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. His trial was to begin this month but was rescheduled for Aug. 27 so that Martin could undergo a competency test.
Martin could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder charge and the aggravated circumstances.
Cole’s mother, Wanda Cole, was among those looking on during Wednesday’s events. When asked for comment, she said that she did not wish for more violence from her son’s alleged killer.
“This ain’t a pretty scene for anyone to go through. I think this is crazy myself,” Cole said. “I hope no one else dies because of his stupidity.”
Wanda Cole’s daughter, Amy Biles, was also among the crowd outside the jail and said that she was hoping for a different outcome.
“I hope (Martin) dies today,” Biles said. “He said he ain’t going to prison, so let (the police) kill him.”
Following the story from her home in South Carolina, another one of Cole’s daughters, Amanda Fortsch, said she was alerted to the situation on Facebook and felt similarly to Biles upon hearing the news of Martin’s involvement.
“I was just hoping that officer didn’t get hurt and that (Martin) did not take another life just to be stupid,” Fortsch said. “David Martin needs to man up … he did the crime, now he needs to do the time.
“My brother didn’t get out alive like that officer … he paid with his life.”