Did inmate have help in escape?

December 9, 2009 8:49:46 AM PST
We're learning new information about how a dangerous inmate managed to pull off an unbelievable escape and the possibility that he had help from the inside. [ READ IT: State of Texas affidavit for arrest]

Activist Quanell X and State Senator John Whitmire both met with the escaped inmate Arcade Comeaux for several hours at the Montgomery County Jail on Tuesday. It was a lengthy meeting and when Sen. Whitmire emerged, he called for a complete security review of the prison system.

Comeaux left Harris County Monday surrounded by uniforms and saying very little. On Tuesday, he was surrounded by suits in the Montgomery County Jail and talking a lot.

"We talked about how he escaped. We talked about things he did when he was on the run. We talked about how he was able to secure the weapon that he used in his escape," Quanell X said. "There is a lot more to this case. There are others involved in this."

Quanell X and Sen. Whitmire spent three hours with Comeaux Tuesday afternoon and the biggest takeaway was that he claimed he had help.

"(Comeaux) did mention a guard. He named that guard and he also named someone who was involved in medical, who had been giving him medical assistance. The help was absolutely from the inside," said Quanell X.

Quanell X also revealed that Comeaux claims to have had the gun in his cell for three weeks before his escape.

If Comeaux's words are true, it answers the biggest question of how was a supposed wheelchair-bound child rapist able to overpower two prison guards and escape during transport more than a week ago?

According to court affidavits, Comeaux was seatbelted into a van, his wheelchair secured. He had handcuffs and leg irons on and was even separated from the two guards by plexiglass. As they reached the Conroe area from Huntsville, the records say he was somehow able to move closer, brandish a pistol and shout, "I've got a gun. I'm serious." To prove it, he then fired a shot.

Once stopped, he had the guards handcuff themselves to each other, lie down on the floor. He took one officer's shirt, pants and boots, two duty pistols and a shotgun. It was quite an elaborate plan.

While he's considering the source, Sen. Whitmire believes there is a serious problem.

"I think you have to assume if there's one, there could be more. Why in the world can't our prison system run a safe facility and have zero tolerance of contraband and mean it?" he said.

Neither Quanell X nor Sen. Whitmire, who is Chairman of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee, would say who Comeaux claims helped him. Two Texas Rangers also listened in on the meeting.

A spokesperson with TDCJ told us that because of the escape, they are accelerating their security audits prison system wide.

Comeaux faces two new counts of aggravated kidnapping and felony escape. Those charges will be presented to a Mongomery County Grand Jury on Thursday.

As is usual policy, the two prison guards who were with Comeaux when he escaped have been placed on administrative duty. The Estelle unit where Comeaux was housed before he escaped is still on lockdown.

Earlier Tuesday

There are still many questions left unanswered as to how a man serving two life sentences managed to get an upper hand on guards, and make a run for it. We're also getting new details about what happened the day he escaped.

With Comeaux now safely locked away inside the Montgomery County Jail, the search for him is over, but the search for answers is just getting underway. Investigators still do not know how he got the gun he used to hold up two officers or whether he had any help pulling off his big escape.

"Those are the questions everyone wants to know," said Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon.

He will head to the grand jury this Thursday hoping to indict Comeaux on charges of escape and aggravated kidnapping.

Comeaux is already serving two back-to-back life sentences for previous crimes, with his next chance at parole decades away. However, Ligon believes he's got a slam dunk case that needs to go forward.

"There's a duty to continue the investigation and so as we are prosecuting this case, it will also help us further the investigation," Ligon said.

Court affidavits released Tuesday reveal Comeaux was secured with handcuffs, leg irons, and a seatbelt inside a transport van when he reportedly pulled a gun on his two transport officers, and fired it right over the top of one officer's head.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is conducting its own internal investigation to determine where that gun came from and if Comeaux was properly searched. A spokesperson Tuesday confirmed both officers involved have been placed on administrative duties and disciplinary action against any employee has not been ruled out.

With Comeaux in custody though investigators may be one step closer to getting the answers they want -- that is, if they can get him to cooperate.

"We may never know unless Mr. Comeaux speaks to us," said Ligon.

Meanwhile, the police department is looking into concerns about their response to the initial 911 call, when Comeaux was found sleeping in a bus on Monday.

Teachers at the children First Elementary Academy say they called 911 at 5:49am and police never came. The police department claims an officer did respond, talked to a 911 caller and searched the nearby area for nearly an hour. Comeaux was finally arrested after he wandered over to a nearby business and workers there called 911.


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