BROOKHAVEN — Under the cover of dark early Tuesday morning, six of 12 inmates in one cell block at the Lincoln County Jail made their getaway into the streets.
They have not been found.
Authorities believe Ahmad Butler, 22, James Durr, 33, Chad Wallace, 29, and Bobby Joe Hudson, 26, all of Brookhaven, and Justin “Jabo” Leake, 32, and Austin Hart, 16, both of Bogue Chitto, appeared to have burned the third-story Plexiglass window of their cell to make it easier to remove. Then they allegedly pried apart the metal window slats and used a sheet to drop to the roof of the Lincoln County Justice Court.
The sheet dangled Tuesday morning from the damaged window that faces South Second Street.
“I don’t know how they managed to fit through there, but they did,” Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said.
One of the escapees is charged with murder and was convicted previously of escape. All six were being held on pre-trial charges, Rushing said.
Leake and Wallace have escaped custody before. Both were convicted of escapes from the Jefferson County Jail, officials said. Leake escaped in 2001; Wallace in 2004.
Rushing said it’s hard to tell this early in the investigation if either masterminded the escape from his jail.
The six may have worked on planning their getaway for quite some time, officials said. The area where the escape occurred is not visible on jail security cameras, Rushing said, and the three jailers working the night shift were not in position to see the incident.
He said investigators were talking to the six other inmates who remained in the cell for details.
The escapees broke free sometime after midnight, the sheriff said.
“We’re looking at whether or not they had outside help,” Rushing said. “Obviously, someone had to have picked them up.”
At least one of the men may have been injured during the escape, he said.
Rushing said he hopes there is no immediate public threat from the escapees, but he advised citizens to stay alert.
“I would use caution with them – one of them was in on a murder charge,” he said. “You always need to proceed with caution in a case like this.”