Oak Park police arrested two men early Sunday morning who had escaped around midnight Saturday from a maximum security disciplinary unit of Cook Cook County jail.
The two men were among six inmates being held without bond who fled the jail after a seventh inmate was able to overpower the lone guard on duty in the unit. David Earnest, 38, was awaiting trial on aggravated murder charges. Arnold Joyner, 42, was being held on theft charges, and had reportedly attempted to escape last month.
Police Chief Rick Tanksley said police were alerted by a West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center telecommunicator, James Falkman, who was driving home around 6:30 a.m. after his shift.
"Falkman was driving home up Ridgeland when he observed two individuals come out of a gangway," said Tanksley. "He noticed that they matched the description of two of the individuals in the teletype."
Falkman waved down Patrol Officer Dawn Carver, who quickly located and approached the pair, dressed in jail-issue tan khakis. They reportedly ran off in different directions upon spotting the officer.
Carver was able to apprehend Joyner without incident when he ran up the embankment in Ridgeland Common that abuts the Green Line tracks. Officer Bob Ritchie took Earnest into custody soon after that in the 400 block of South Boulevard on the other side of the train tracks.
A third escapee, Tyrone Everhart, 28, who is awaiting trial for aggravated kidnapping, was reportedly arrested in Burr Ridge around 9:30 a.m., according to sheriff's officials.
All three are back at Cook County jail.
Area police departments were aware of the escape after County Jail officials sent a teletype to all police agencies throughout the northern Illinois region, according to Tanksley.
Earnest and Joyner reportedly first told police that all six inmates got off a westbound train in Oak Park. That later proved to be false, but police were taking no chances. A command center was set up in the Pilgrim Congregational Church parking lot across from Ridgeland Common. All officers working the midnight shift were kept on duty, and teamed up in two-man cars with officers reporting for the morning shift. SWAT team officers were also called in to duty, as were members of the department's detective bureau.
Police set up a search perimeter, bounded by Lake Street on the north, Madison Avenue on the south, Ridgeland on the east and Harlem Avenue to the west. Power on the CTA tracks from Central Avenue in Chicago to Harlem Avenue was shut off, and Chicago, Oak Park and Cook County police searched the tracks and trains. Police also searched a freight train stopped on the tracks. That train, which stretched from near Austin Boulevard to Harlem Avenue, was "searched from top to bottom," said Deputy Chief Bob Scianna.
Canine units from Chicago and Forest Park were called in, and units from those departments as well as River Forest were used to block off numerous intersections.
"We got a lot of help from a lot of people," said Scianna.
That included agents from the U.S. Marshall's service in Chicago, Metra Police, Cook County, and Chicago Transit police.
Meanwhile the police department was being deluged with hundreds of calls seeking information after area residents woke up to the low din of helicopters hovering overhead.
"The switchboard's been lit up all morning," said a rather weary community service officer on duty just after 10 a.m.
Police in the seach area were kept busy throughout the early morning hours checking apartment entrances, alleys, and backyards in the area.
Besides Joyner, Earnest and Everhart, escapees included Michael Macintosh, 30, who was arrested for aggravated battery with possession of a firearm; Erin Bernard, 22, who was arrested for armed robbery, and Francisco Romero, 23, who has been in jail for 4½ years and is awaiting trial for murder.
An official blamed the escape in large measure on "a severe understaffing problem" at the jail, where he said guards are spread thin. The escape might have been prevented had there been a second guard present in the shower area, he said.
By noon a bulletin had been placed on the village's website and on VOP 6, the village's cable channel, alerting residents to the remaining escapees.