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Inmates drink hand sanitizer

Sheriff's SWAT teams were on standby Friday after four inmates became intoxicated at Geiger Corrections Center. 
 (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)
Sheriff's SWAT teams were on standby Friday after four inmates became intoxicated at Geiger Corrections Center. (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)

Officers descended on Geiger Corrections Center on Friday after drunken and rowdy inmates sparked a daylong search for contraband at the facility.

Four inmates mixed Purell hand sanitizer and Kool-Aid to make an alcoholic concoction and were found drunk about 11 a.m., said Sgt. Dave Reagan of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. They became uncooperative, so officers used force to get them to obey commands, including strapping two of them into restraint chairs.

“The inmates out here at Geiger Corrections are considered low-risk inmates – when they’re sober,” Reagan said. “But when they are affected by drugs or alcohol, they become something other than low-risk.”

The four intoxicated inmates apparently had access to hand sanitizer on their work release programs and smuggled it into Geiger, Reagan said.

On Friday, they were segregated from the rest of Geiger’s 511 inmates, many of whom were moved outdoors so authorities could search for more contraband. When the weather turned rainy, about 80 inmates became restless, so guards moved them into the gymnasium.

No female inmates were involved with the unrest, Reagan said.

A team of guards from the Spokane County Jail were brought in to help move the inmates in handcuffs, Reagan said, and two SWAT teams were on standby. About 5 p.m., a team from the Spokane Police Department joined to speed up the search.

The situation was not violent, though some inmates were “mouthy” and uncooperative, Reagan said. At least 11 were taken to the less-cushy Spokane County Jail after being difficult or inciting other inmates.

Those who made Purell-laced Kool-Aid were included.

“I’m here to tell you, those four inmates are so out of here,” Reagan said. “An infraction like that will cause you to lose the privilege of staying at Geiger, and you’ll return to Spokane County Jail.”

Officers did not take their guns into Geiger, at risk of being overpowered by inmates and being shot. But officials were armed with nightsticks, pepper spray, Tasers and “an immense amount of training,” Reagan said.

There are plenty of nooks and crannies to search in the barracks, he said.

“Initially they went in looking for this hand sanitizer and any form of alcohol,” Reagan said. “But having worked in a jail, I can tell you that given the opportunity to conduct a search like this, they’re probably looking for anything and everything.”

Geiger needed help in the hunt because 11 guards were on duty Friday morning; it usually has 16. Each assisting SWAT team had about 15 people on it, Reagan said.

Spokane County Jail Cmdr. Jerry Brady said the jail agreed to send personnel and was put on lockdown because it would be short-staffed.

Friday’s incident was not related to Thursday night’s escape from Geiger, Reagan said.

Inmate Roger H. Nordling, 54, escaped during his Bible study after a volunteer let him out of a building to get fresh air about 9:10 p.m. Nordling climbed to the roof, jumped over a barbed-wire fence and hopped into a waiting car in an escape that was likely planned, Geiger Capt. John McGrath said Thursday.

Authorities were still searching Friday for a blue Chrysler four-door sedan. Nordling is white, 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. He was being held at Geiger on $100,000 bail on charges of second-degree assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance, McGrath said.

Spokane County Jail is led by Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, while Geiger is under the jurisdiction of Spokane County commissioners. Officials have debated for years whether it makes sense to have separate jail divisions.

Geiger has traditionally been used for low- and medium-security inmates. But in the past few years, riskier offenders have been sent to Geiger as the jail became overcrowded.


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