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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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FBI investigating attempted jail break

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 20, 2015

Staff reports
A rope being lowered from a fifth-floor cell at the Spokane County Jail alerted corrections officers to a potential escape attempt this morning. The cell was occupied by two federal inmates, according to a news release from Spokane County. The FBI is not releasing the names of the inmates, saying there is no threat to public safety and all jail inmates have been accounted for. Reports indicate one of the inmates who tried to escape was James Henrikson, the North Dakota oil speculator who faces trial in October for his alleged role in the death of South Hill businessman Doug Carlile in December 2013. The escape attempt was discovered just before 4 a.m. Thursday, according to Spokane County spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter. Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies and Spokane police quickly established a perimeter, and the two inmates inside the cell on the fifth floor were cooperative once the rope was discovered. “It was thwarted by the good work of the staff,” said Frank Harrill, a spokesman with the FBI. Ken Coburn said he might have witnessed an attempted escape while he was working out at the YMCA around 6 a.m. Thursday morning. “We looked across to the jail and there were a whole bunch of sheets tied together dangling down from the building,” he said. “That’s like the oldest trick in the book next to putting the file in the cake.” A photo of the scene this morning at the jail showed several sheets tied together, leading from a cell high above the ground/

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who was in charge of the jail for several years before County Commissioners took over operations in 2014, said he’d never seen an inmate successfully squeeze through exterior windows. “They’re very, very narrow,” he said. Spokane County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn said this morning she was waiting to be briefed on the situation before commenting. Spokane County Jail Director John McGrath directed questions on the case to the FBI. Harrill referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Washington. That office has not yet commented on the escape attempt. Henrikson and several others are scheduled for trial in Spokane on Oct. 5. The federal judge in that case, Salvador Mendoza, recently ruled that jurors would not be allowed to hear about another plot Henrikson allegedly hatched to break out of Spokane County Jail, where he’s been held since an indictment in the case was handed down in September. The main source of information in that escape attempt was a statement by a fellow inmate, who said he was recruited by Henrikson to help him flee a jail transport van using squirt guns filled with gasoline. Henrikson’s attorney did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday afternoon. In its news release, Spokane County said inmates have weekly access to clean bedding and dirty laundry hampers.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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