Chehalis, WA – Two handcuffed inmates’ plan to escape custody was thwarted by a Lewis County District Court judge, who tossed his robe aside and chased after the fleeing men after they bolted out of his courtroom (video below).
The incident occurred on Oct. 16, while a Lewis County deputy was leading a line of inmates out of District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard’s courtroom, The Daily Chronicle reported.
Tanner Jacobson, 22, and Kodey Howard, 28, were the last two inmates lined up to leave the room through a door near the judge’s bench, when they suddenly pivoted and sprinted past the counsel tables and through the gallery, surveillance footage showed.
The duo raced out the door at the back of the courtroom and into a small lobby, where Howard tripped over his orange jail shoes.
The handcuffed escapee tumbled to the ground, his face skidding across the floor, before he promptly regained his footing and bolted towards the stairs.
Meanwhile, Buzzard jumped up off the bench, dropped his judge’s robe to the side, and took off out of his courtroom in pursuit of the escapees.
With Jacobson in the lead, the two inmates barreled down four flights of stairs as the judge closed in on Howard.
Buzzard grabbed on to Howard just as the aspiring fugitives raced out an open emergency door, the video showed.
Jacobson and Howard were both apprehended off-camera outside the building a moment later, The Daily Chronicle reported.
“These things don’t happen very often,” Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza told the paper. “They’re few and far between.”
Sheriff Snaza explained that the only deputy inside the courtroom when the inmates took off was unable to chase after them due to the multitude of other inmates he was moving at the time, but that deputies were quickly notified about the escape attempt and were able to respond swiftly.
“We’re very aware of what’s going on at a moment’s notice,” Sheriff Snaza said.
Jacobson, who was already in jail on charges of driving with a suspended license in the third degree and reckless driving, both misdemeanors, now faces an additional count of second-degree escape, a felony, The Daily Chronicle reported.
Driving with a suspended license in the 3rd degree is generally considered one of the least serious crime in existence, and the most common consequence is a small fine.
During his preliminary hearing, prosecutor Amber Caulfield told Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee that Jacobson was a “serious flight risk,” according to the paper.
Jacobson’s attorney said her client knew that running from a courtroom in handcuffs was “improper,” but argued that he had apologized to court staff after he was apprehended.
Toynbee followed the prosecutor’s recommendation and set Jacobson’s bond at $10,000.
Howard, who was initially charged with first-degree trafficking in stolen property, second-degree burglary, two warrants for failure to appear in court, and third-degree driving with a suspended license, was also charged with second-degree escape for his failed getaway attempt.
Toynbee set his bond at $50,000.
Preliminary hearings for both men have been scheduled for Thursday.
Sheriff Snaza said the escape attempt was the second time such an incident has occurred in the past several years, The Daily Chronicle reported.
The issue of courthouse security was already a topic of discussion, but has become an even bigger concern in light of recent events, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said.
“We need to make sure [the public] feels safe when they come here,” Meyer said. “We need to make sure that the public knows they’ll be safe if they come here to report a crime or to be a witness in a case.”
County officials are considering the option of having armed security guards stationed at the courthouse building, he said.
“Because quite frankly, I don’t like it when judges are jumping over the bench to chase people down,” Meyer added. “Because that’s not what they’re trained to do.”
You can watch surveillance footage of Buzzard’s foot pursuit with the fleeing inmates in the video below: