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2 Hall deputies fired in wake of inmate's escape

Sheriff's Office release says proper procedures were not followed

POSTED: July 23, 2013 11:12 p.m.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that two deputies were fired for their roles in an inmate’s escape from custody last week.

Deputies Larry Henslee and Jack Dodd have been terminated, per the sheriff’s office’s findings from an internal investigation, according to a news release.

Both deputies were assigned to the transport detail July 16, when around 12:40 p.m., 46-year-old James Edward Cantrell escaped custody during transfer from the courthouse to a transport vehicle. Cantrell was among a group of inmates being escorted from the courthouse back to the Hall County Jail after court proceedings.

After the bus departed, Cantrell located a nearby work truck with the keys left inside and fled, evading custody for six days before being captured Monday at a motel in Tucker by agents of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force.
The two assigned deputies in the incident did not “have the inmates in an orderly fashion, nor were they positioned to properly monitor the inmates,” according to the release. “They failed to notice Cantrell as he slipped out of line and concealed himself in the alcove of an exterior doorway while they were loading other inmates onto the transport bus.”

Furthermore, officials said, although a head count was done before leaving the courthouse, the transport deputies didn’t conduct a head count once the bus was loaded or when it arrived at the jail.

The deputies also didn’t immediately begin investigating once the discrepancy was discovered, and consequently, there was about an hour-and-30-minute delay in discovering Cantrell’s escape, officials said.

“We do have a policy and procedure in place for everything that we do, and those policies weren’t followed,” sheriff’s office spokesman Deputy Chad Mann said.

Sheriff Gerald Couch said the office will be reviewing the policies as well as conducting more training to prevent future incidents.

“Events like this are inexcusable, and this is a prime example of why procedures must be followed,” Couch said in the release. “Unfortunately human error allowed this escape to occur and not be discovered in a timely fashion. The bottom line is there was a failure to perform basic, frontline duties resulting in a very serious situation, and I will not tolerate it.”

In addition to the improper head counts, Cantrell was not restrained properly. Officials said that after Cantrell complained of a knee injury, the deputies allowed him to forgo leg irons and be handcuffed in front of his body instead of behind his back.

Cantrell was serving time for felony battery related to family violence, and court records show a long history of charges, including possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and stalking.

The news release noted that security measures were put in place to ensure victim safety, and state and other local law enforcement were notified of the incident.

Cantrell has now been charged with felony escape, and had his first appearance before a Hall County Magistrate Court judge on Tuesday.

He requested a committal hearing, scheduled for Aug. 9, and representation from the public defender’s office.
Cantrell is not eligible for bond and is being held in the Hall County Jail.


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