Earlier this month, a man slipped from handcuffs at the Roanoke City Jail and led police on a brief chase before being struck by a state police cruiser.
The bizarre escape downtown may have been possible only thanks to a maintenance fluke: a broken gate at the city jail.
Ordinarily, police drive people into the facility through what’s called the sally port gate, which closes behind them. Once out of the police vehicle, arrestees find themselves in an enclosed area.
But since May 15, the gate has been out of operation, said Kristen Borak, a jail spokeswoman. Since then, police park outside, take people through an exterior “receiving” door into that enclosed space, and then into the jail itself.
On June 5, state police brought Alexander D. Ramsey to the jail after they say he ran from them at a traffic stop in Roanoke.
At some point between getting out of the cruiser and entering the jail through the door, he slipped out of the cuffs and took off running.
Sgt. Rick Garletts, a state police spokesman, said he supposed either the cuffs weren’t tight enough or Ramsey dislocated his thumb.
Shortly afterward, a state police cruiser hit Ramsey at the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Second Street Southwest. The collision was accidental, and happened when the trooper swerved to avoid Ramsey, who was running in the street, according to Garletts.
If the jail’s gate been working properly, Ramsey’s escape might still have been possible — but his chance to do so would have been slimmer. Borak said the jail sometimes uses the receiving door to bring in inmates, such as when multiple vehicles bring people to the jail at the same time and can’t all fit in the sally port.
But on that June afternoon, the broken gate became one more wrinkle in a day full of criminal justice mishaps .
City records show a work order for the gate was entered May 15. Two days later, the city received a quote of $8,700 to replace the gate from The Door Doctor, a Roanoke company.
A new gate has been ordered, a city spokeswoman said Wednesday, and is expected to arrive in four weeks. City staff then needs to schedule a time with jail staff for its installation.
After treatment for minor injuries, Ramsey was released from the hospital later the evening of his escape, Garletts said. He was charged with a dozen offenses, court records show, including escaping from jail by force.
He is being held without bond.