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Sheriff’s office reviews procedures after courthouse escape

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GINA R. HEINE
January 22, 2010
— Rock County sheriff’s officials are reviewing policies and procedures after a man who was in custody on an emergency mental detention escaped from the Rock County Courthouse on Jan. 15.

A 38-year-old Janesville man dressed in street clothes walked out of a conference room in the courthouse while awaiting his hearing, Chief Deputy Barbara Tillman said. The man was apprehended 92 minutes later in the parking lot of a store on Milton Avenue, she said.


“It’s not acceptable, and it’s something we take very seriously,” she said.


According to Tillman:


The man and another patient were brought from Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison and taken to a conference room attached to the jury assembly room on the first floor of the courthouse.


A human services worker who met with the patients said one of them was showing unstable behavior. That led a deputy to turn his back to the conference room during the other patient’s hearing.


“Unbeknownst to (the deputy), the other patient got up and walked out,” Tillman said.


Minutes later, the hearing ended and the deputy turned to discover the patient was gone from the conference room. Deputies searched the courthouse and interviewed family members.


An investigation showed the man after escaping called someone he knows from his church to meet at Big Lots. He cooperated when deputies found him there. He was taken into custody and returned to the courthouse for his hearing.


The man was discovered missing at 1:18 p.m. and was taken into custody at 2:50 p.m.


The man had shown no flight risk or disruptive behavior during the trip to and at the courthouse, Tillman said.


The sheriff’s office continues an internal review of procedures and the actions of deputies, to “make every effort we can to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Tillman said.



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