July 21, 2011 in City, Idaho

Benewah County Jail escapee caught

Tribal officers arrest fugitive on reservation
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Wilkenson
(Full-size photo)

A convicted burglar who escaped Friday from Benewah County Jail has been recaptured, thanks in part to Kootenai County’s cross-deputization agreement with the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police.

Tribal officers made the arrest working with Plummer city police and the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office, authorities said Wednesday.

Jesse John Wilkenson, 20, also known as Jesse Brebner, was recaptured at 2 a.m. Wednesday on Conklin Park Road, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. He now faces up to five more years in prison if convicted of escape, a news release from the state Department of Corrections said.

“He was arrested by the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police and booked into our jail,” said Kootenai County Sheriff’s Lt. Stu Miller. “He was released from our jail back to Benewah County.”

The arrest occurred in southern Kootenai County, within the boundaries of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, said Eric Van Orden, a spokesman for the tribe. Van Orden said the officers followed a lead regarding a vehicle Wilkenson might be driving. They spotted the vehicle, pulled it over and, after a brief foot pursuit, arrested Wilkenson, Van Orden said.

“He was arrested by tribal Officer Joseph Matt and taken to Kootenai County,” Van Orden said.

Miller said the incident underlines the importance of cross-deputization, even if the tribal officer was working with other agencies.

Without cross-deputization, tribal police are unable to arrest non-Indian crime suspects on their reservation.

“It’s very helpful and beneficial for us because we get the assistance of the tribal police, which adds to our force when it comes to crime on the reservation,” Miller said.

“It’s a good cooperative agreement between the two agencies. We know they have the same training our deputies do. None of us has all the resources in the world. This is a way to add to our force.”

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Benewah County have battled for years over cross-deputization. Benewah County officials openly resisted the move, despite legislative intervention, until this spring, when Sheriff Robert Kirts gave five tribal officers that authority.

The fugitive, Wilkenson, escaped from the Benewah County Jail shortly after his sentencing Friday. Jeff Ray, a spokesman for the state Corrections Department, on Tuesday expressed alarm that an inmate under state jurisdiction had escaped with no notification from Benewah County until Monday, when it was “buried” in the notes column of a faxed document related to prisoner transport.

“If it’s an offender under our jurisdiction, we want to know if he’s loose,” Ray said Tuesday. A Spokane TV station reported that Kirts did not consider Wilkenson high-risk.

Kirts did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday or Wednesday.

Wilkenson escaped after being sentenced to a yearlong retained jurisdiction program that allowed him to complete a treatment program in lieu of a prison sentence.

State authorities issued a warning Tuesday that Wilkenson escaped after learning Benewah County officials had not done so.

Staff writer Meghann Cuniff contributed to this report.


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