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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Kootenai County Jail inmate surrenders after jailbreak attempt; sheriff says jail is overfilled

UPDATED: Thu., April 7, 2022

An inmate facing a slew of serious charges tried to escape the Kootenai County Jail Sunday, but he surrendered after sting ball grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas were used against him.

Jesse R. Spitzer, 30, of Sultan, Washington, was in a one-person cell when he was able to “defeat” his locked cell door shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, according to a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office news release. He allegedly armed himself with the metal leg of his cell desk and made several attempts to break windows and doors in his effort to escape.

When jail staff saw Spitzer outside his cell, they locked down the jail and started inmate escape protocols, the release said.

The sheriff’s office, Coeur d’Alene Police Department and Idaho State Police responded, deputies said.

One deputy sustained minor injuries, and several uninvolved inmates suffered the effects of tear gas. All were treated by jail medical staff.

Spitzer remained in jail with a $1 million bond as of Wednesday afternoon. He faces two counts each of aggravated assault, eluding police and possession of a stolen vehicle.

For Sunday’s incident, he was charged with two counts of escape.

Authorities in late January arrested Spitzer in northwestern Montana after he was suspected in six car chases in one week.

The sheriff’s office said the jail is beyond the safe maximum capacity and is short-staffed.

The release said the safe maximum capacity of the jail is 361 inmates, and the overall maximum capacity is 451. On Sunday, the inmate population was 412, with 20 inmates being housed in other jail facilities. Of the 412 inmates, 78% are incarcerated for a felony offense. The jail is down 24 staff positions.

“I don’t think the public realizes the public safety that each member of our jail team contributes to this community,” Sheriff Robert Norris said in the release. “I am very grateful, and proud, of their dedication and commitment to public safety.”

Kootenai County, with its close proximity to Washington, is feeling the effects of “woke policies” and sentencing of their criminal offenders, the release said.

Considering the increased population growth coupled with hiring challenges, the future for public safety is concerning, the sheriff’s office said.

“We have seen the failures of alternative bail programs, felony defendants released on a citation, or weak sentences on serious violent suspects across this country, and quite simply, they do not work,” Norris said in the release. “Holding the criminal population accountable for their actions will keep Kootenai County safe and provide an incentive for criminals to change their behavior.”

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