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Sheriff: Schenectady County jail on lockdown after inmate steals keys

Sheriff: Schenectady County jail on lockdown after inmate steals keys

A handcuff key remains unfound
Sheriff: Schenectady County jail on lockdown after inmate steals keys
The Schenectady County jail on Veeder Avenue.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SCHENECTADY — A Schenectady County jail inmate stole a set of keys during a court visit Monday, leading the jail to be placed on lockdown, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino said.

The jail remained on lockdown Wednesday, Dagostino said, as officials continue to search for a missing handcuff key. They have since located other keys taken that were stashed in the department's transport van, the sheriff said. Officers have also identified the inmate who took the keys, Dagostino said.

Undersheriff Gordon Pollard said later that the search at the jail is ongoing. It is expected to be completed by Thursday morning, when the lockdown would be lifted. 

A jail lockdown means inmates are largely confined to their cells. No visiting is allowed and only a select few can enter or exit, officials said.

The incident remained under investigation Wednesday, including what charges the inmate would face and whether officers violated any policies or rules were violated, Dagostino said. 

Dagostino did not have a firm time on how long it took from when the keys were taken to when officers realized they were missing, but he said corrections officers realized it quickly.

Officers reviewed surveillance video from the City Court holding area that showed an inmate reaching into an area where the keys were held around the time officers led inmates back to the van and jail, Dagostino said.

The inmate apparently then stuffed the keys into an area of the van, behind some equipment, Dagostino said.

"We brought it over to the county garage and started dismantling certain sections," Dagostino said of the van search. They found the bulk of the keys there Tuesday. 

The keys taken included handcuff keys and keys to certain parts of the jail, Dagostino said.

Regarding the corrections officers responsible for the inmates, Dagostino said their actions will be looked at.

"We'll investigate the whole thing and if we find that our officers were deficient, there certainly will be discipline," Dagostino said.

The sheriff said he anticipates the inmate who took the keys will at least face theft charges. Asked if the inmate could face an attempted escape count, Dagostino said he didn't believe it hit that level, but he wouldn't rule it out.

The last actual escape from Schenectady County jail custody happened in February 2006 when inmate Edwin Ortiz slipped through a weakened recreation yard fence to 19 hours of freedom. A jump from the jail roof hobbled Ortiz as he severely sprained his ankle upon landing and he was recaptured the next day. He remains in prison on the escape and his underlying charges.

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