Report: Two Inmates Bolt From District Court During Hearing


SECURITY: Prosecutor Says Incident Shows Courthouse Needs Better Security

By Cody Neuenschwander

Two men wearing jail garb and with hands still shackled allegedly ran from a courtroom in Lewis County District Court Tuesday afternoon, with one making it outside the building, where he was caught by deputies.

Tanner D. Jacobson, 22, of Onalaska and Kodey L. Howard, 28, of Winlock were each charged Wednesday with second-degree escape. Jacobson was placed on a $100,000 cash bond, and Howard on a $50,000 cash bond.

According to a probable cause affidavit, both had their hands shackled when they appeared in Judge R.W. Buzzard’s court on the third floor of the courthouse and when they both took off running from the courtroom. Buzzard chased after them, catching and restraining Howard before he reached an emergency exit. But Jacobson made it outside through the emergency exit. He was caught by deputies a few blocks from the courthouse.

An online jail roster indicates Jacobson has been behind bars since Monday for charges of reckless driving and third-degree driving with a suspended license. Howard was also arrested Monday for charges of second-degree burglary, first-degree trafficking in stolen property, third-degree driving with a suspended license and two warrants for failure to appear in court.

During a preliminary hearing in Lewis County Superior Court with Judge Andrew Toynbee presiding, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amber Caulfield argued for a $100,000 cash bond against Jacobson. She called him a “serious flight risk.”

Defense attorney Rachael Tiller asked for a $50,000 cash bond, saying Jacobson understands what he did was “improper,” and that he did apologize to district court staff. Toynbee imposed the harsher option, but when it came time for Howard’s hearing, he allowed a lighter bail of $50,000. His rationale was that Jacobson is already being held on a couple weighty bonds on top of his most recent offense.

Both have arraignment hearings scheduled for 3 p.m. on Oct. 25.

Courthouse security has been, and given the incident Tuesday, will continue to be a topic of conversation among county officials, said Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

“We need to make sure (the public) feels safe when they come here,” he said. “We need to make sure that the public knows they’ll be safe if they come here to report a crime or to be a witness in a case.”

Meyer said Tuesday’s events represent one of several that may have been negated by additional armed guards in the courthouse.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputies accompany anyone currently in custody while they appear at hearings in the courthouse. Sheriff’s Office Chief Dusty Breen said in an email that one deputy was in the courtroom when Jacobson and Howard ran, and there were four inmates total.

Situations like that put deputies in a tough situation, because even if one runs, there are still others in custody needing to be watched, said Meyer.

Meyer said an assortment of county officials have met to discuss how to tighten courthouse security, and one proposal is to add as many as two armed guards, who aren’t restricted to certain courtrooms. They would be free to respond to incidents as they happen in the courthouse.

“Because quite frankly, I don’t like it when judges are jumping over the bench to chase people down … because that’s not what they’re trained to do,” said Meyer.

He noted that any conversation about stricter security is preliminary, and many details would still need to be ironed out. For instance, whether additional armed guards would patrol the entire courthouse campus and whether they would be deputies or employees of a private security company.

And of course, what would it cost?

“Because none of these proposals are cheap,” said Meyer.