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Sheriff explains how six inmates escaped from the Cocke County jail

Published: Dec. 26, 2016 at 4:34 PM EST
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In the matter of six minutes, six inmates managed to escape through a wall, leaving behind pieces of insulation and a pair of crocks.

"Around 1:30 am, a group of six inmates tore a stainless-steel urinal off of the wall," said Sheriff Armando Fontes, of Cocke County.

It's not quite what anyone expects to hear early Christmas morning, nor is it common for inmates to kick down concrete, break through plastic pipes and escape through a 20 inch wide hole, but six east Tennessee inmates proved it can be done.

"They kicked open a steel box unit that was covering the outside of the access and fled over a fence," said Sheriff Fontes.

The men stayed in a dormitory-style cell with 17 other offenders.

It's possible the others helped them through their window of opportunity, something Sheriff Fontes said will be expensive to patch up.

"We're going to do everything we can to secure this facility in order to house inmates," said Sheriff Fontes.

Guards noticed the men were gone when they did a headcount later that morning. The other dead giveaway for the officers was the toilet.

"They noticed that the actual urinal had been set back up in place to where you could tell a bunch had happened," said Sheriff Fontes.

Sheriff Fontes blames the ability to escape on poor conditions inside the jail, including issues with sewage breaks and deterioration. In the meantime, he's focused on putting all escapees back in jail.

"Always consider all of them to be dangerous, regardless of what type of events they've committed," said Sheriff Fontes.

The sheriff's department said they're going to put a three-quarter inch plate over the access panes outside the cell in order to keep another escape from happening again.