City Jail inmate escapes after identification switch

May 06, 1991|By Doug Birch

A Baltimore man being held in the City Jail without bail on narcotics and assault charges walked out the door Saturday evening, apparently after switching identification papers with another inmate.

It was the second time in three weeks that jail inmates tried to switch identities to engineer an escape. A similar effort failed April 12, but on Saturday the ruse worked -- and the inmate remained free last night.

Wayne W. Washington, 35, of the 3200 block of Liberty Heights Avenue, walked out of the jail about 7:15 p.m. posing as inmate Preston Nichols, 31, according to a report filed with city police by Capt. Lee Countess of the jail staff.

Mr. Washington, who was being held without bond, was discovered missing a few minutes later and remained at large yesterday afternoon. Bond of $6,500 had been posted Saturday to secure freedom for Mr. Nichols, but officers making a routine bed check discovered he was still in his cell that evening.

Mr. Nichols, who was awaiting trial in an assault case, was still being held yesterday pending possible charges stemming from the escape, police said.

The report taken by the police said both Mr. Washington and Mr. Nichols arrived at the jail Saturday morning from the Southern District police station and were processed together. It suggested the two men somehow were able to switch identification cards that are routinely placed on an inmate's assigned cell to help officers making random bed checks.

About 7:40 p.m., an officer making a bed check noticed that the identification papers for Mr. Washington were in the space assigned to Mr. Nichols' bed, the report said.

After a check of photographs on file, the report said, jail authorities realized they were still holding Mr. Nichols and that Mr. Washington was missing.

The report said Mr. Washington, posing as Mr. Nichols, apparently was released about 20 minutes before the bed check.

Mr. Washington was being held without bail on various drug charges, including the manufacture of a controlled substance and assault. He is also wanted by the Baltimore County police, the report said, on unspecified charges.

Darryl J. Madden, spokesman for the jail, confirmed that Mr. Washington was "released erroneously," but declined to discuss the case further pending an investigation.

On April 12, two Baltimore men, both 20, allegedly tried to engineer a similar escape. Jail officials reported that Robert Teal of Myrtle Avenue, who was being held on $7,000 bail on a firearms charge, managed to switch photos on jail documents with James Ray of Shirley Avenue.

Mr. Ray was being held on $63,000 bail on four charges of robbery with a deadly weapon, battery and weapons violations.

Mr. Ray claimed to be Mr. Teal, posted $7,000 bond and started to gather his belongings when a guard, who had just escorted Mr. Teal to the visiting room, recognized Mr. Ray as an impostor. Both inmates later had their bail revoked.

Saturday's escape was the latest in a series of security lapses at the jail. In late 1990 and early this year, inmates escaped by sawing through bars, hiding in trash trucks and climbing down bedsheets.

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