RED OAK, Iowa – A woman armed with a sawed-off shotgun forced a small-town jailer into a cell Monday and fled with an inmate to Nebraska, where the they were captured about eight hours later, authorities said.
A tip led U.S. marshals and police in Omaha, Neb., to Jessica Ann Johnson, 24, and Stuart Sellers, 33, who were traveling in a stolen vehicle, Montgomery County sheriff's officials said.
No shots were fired, but no other details of their arrests were immediately available.
The suspects were awaiting extradition to Iowa, where they face a slew of charges in the brazen jail break, authorities said.
Shortly before 1 a.m., Johnson went to the Montgomery County jail in Red Oak under the pretense of bailing out another inmate. The sole jailer on duty allowed her into the booking area, which is behind the bars in the foyer.
"We let them inside the bars so they can sit down, hand over the money and do the paperwork," Chief Deputy Chris Stephens said.
That's when Johnson pulled the shotgun on the jailer.
"She had a sawed-off shotgun underneath her coat stuck partially in her pants so the jailer couldn't see it," Stephens said.
There are no metal detectors in the jail.
Johnson and Sellers locked the jailer in the cell and walked out through the jail's main entrance, officials said. The jailer, whose name was not released, called 911 with a cell phone, Stephens said.
The sheriff's dispatcher who answered the call looked at the cameras in the jail and saw the jailer in the cell.
"The dispatcher is also handling traffic, so she's not watching the cameras in the jail — just glancing up occasionally," Stephens said.
He estimated the jail break took only minutes.
Johnson and Sellers were "acquaintances at least," Stephens said. Both were arrested in December at a gathering where drugs were involved, Stephens said.
Officials in the sheriff's office didn't know whether the suspects had attorneys.
According to court records, Sellers was charged with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and was being held on $100,000 bond. Johnson was charged with gathering for use of drugs and had been released on $5,000 bond.
Both were being questioned by Iowa investigators late Monday afternoon and had not been booked into jail, said Omaha police Sgt. Teresa Negron. Omaha is 45 miles northwest of Red Oak.
Johnson was charged in Montgomery County with accessory to a felon, conspiracy, assault with a weapon, interference with a Department of Corrections officer, assisting a prison escape and unauthorized possession of an offensive weapon.
Sellers was charged with conspiracy, assault with a weapon, interference with Department of Corrections officer and escape of a felon.