CICERO, Ill. – What began dramatically with the midnight breakout of six inmates from the Cook County Jail ended quietly early Monday as the last two of the fugitives surrendered at the end of a long police siege of apartment building in this western Chicago suburb.
"These were the worst of the worst," Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan said of the men who broke out of a special detention unit around midnight Saturday. And he praised local law enforcement for apprehending all six without firing a shot.
"Cicero did a great job," Sheahan said, noting that the area around the apartment where the fugitives were holed up had already been cordoned off before Chicago, Cook County and federal law enforcement officers arrived. The building was across the street from McKinley Elementary School.
Cicero village spokesman Dan Proft said roughly three dozen officers responded to the home after they received a 911 call from the male roommate of a woman who was inside the apartment with her five young children. The roommate managed to leave before the standoff began.
"They had nowhere to go," Sheahan said of the trapped men. "They had to consider what was out here. They knew probably by looking out the window that they couldn't go anywhere. "They were desperate but they weren't that desperate that they'd try to run."
The last two to surrender were identified as: Eric Bernard, 22, of Chicago, charged with armed robbery; and Tyrone Everhart, 28, of suburban Markham, charged with aggravated kidnapping and attempting to escape from the Markham Courthouse.
Reporters on the scene also saw officers lead out the woman in handcuffs and take the last child from the apartment. Authorities said all five children were placed in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Francisco Romero, 23, a murder suspect from Chicago, was also in the apartment, but he surrendered around midnight Sunday and brought two young children out with him.
The escape of the six raised questions about a shortage of guards at the 10,000-inmate jail.
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's department, said authorities planned to question the guard who said he was overpowered Saturday night, allowing the escape to proceed.
"We have questions that haven't been appropriately answered," Daly said.
The escape was the second jail break since Friday and third since June. No inmates had escaped from the jail in the previous 10 years.
Authorities are also trying to determine how a handgun used to shoot three inmates on Feb. 1 was smuggled into the maximum security wing of the jail.
"The last ten days, as far as I'm concerned, makes me sick," said Sheahan. "But we have to investigate and find out why that happened."
The jail currently employs about 2,700 guards.
Only one guard was on duty Saturday night in the shower area of the housing unit instead of three, Sheahan said.
The incident began when a guard removed an inmate's handcuffs and leg irons to let him shower, which was unwise without another guard present, the sheriff said.
"He shouldn't have been in there by himself," Sheahan said. "He should never have done what he did."
According to the guard's initial report, the inmate threw hot and soapy water from a shower on him and then held him at bay with a makeshift knife. He then handcuffed the guard and put on his uniform.
The inmate then opened the electronic jail cell doors to let six other inmates out. One of the six set a mattress on fire to attract the attention of another guard. Once that guard arrived, the inmates overpowered him and took his keys to unlock the doors to a parking lot.
The inmate wearing the guard's uniform immediately was caught, but six managed to make it through the parking lot, over a barbed wire fence and out onto the streets.
About six hours later, police in suburban Oak Park captured two of the fugitives. They were identified as Arnold Joyner, 43, of Chicago, charged with theft and battery, and David Earnest, 38, charged with murder.
A third inmate, Michael McIntosh, 30, of Chicago, was arrested on Chicago's South Side Sunday evening. McIntosh had been held on charges of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The breakout came only hours after authorities recaptured an earlier escapee. Inmate Warren Mathis was arrested Saturday at a suburban motel. He apparently escaped from the jail Friday by slipping into a laundry truck. Mathis was returned to the jail where he had been held since Aug. 29 on armed robbery charges and a parole violation.
Two jail officers have been suspended with pay pending an investigation of Mathis' escape, Sheahan said.
In June, accused bank robber Randy Rencher escaped from the jail while delivering meals to other inmates. He was in custody facing drug and weapons charges, plus charges of attempted criminal sexual assault and home invasion. He turned himself in to authorities in November.
A shooting inside the jail's maximum security unit earlier this month left three inmates with minor injuries. Authorities have said that a 21-year-old woman, who was reportedly the girlfriend of one of the inmates, smuggled a gun into the jail and slipped it through a bulletproof glass divider.