Jail inmate makes brief escape

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 15, 1999

An inmate briefly escaped the Natchez City Jail early Sunday, dragging two detention officers with him.

Roosevelt Atkins kicked and fought his way as far as the parking lot of the D’Evereux Drive facility before being detained by the two officers and a patrol officer at about 10:15 a.m.

Atkins’ escape attempt began when after returning from the morning church service. He told officers that the phone inside his cell didn’t work and that he needed to call family members to bring him some medicine, said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff.

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&uot;Since he was in there for a non-violent crime and since they hadn’t had any problems with him they took him into booking to use the phone,&uot; Huff said. Atkins, 30, of Jonesville, La., had been in the jail since March 11, awaiting a preliminary hearing on a felony shoplifting charge.

After making his call, Atkins noticed that the door leading from the booking area into the police department area wasn’t shut properly, Huff said.

&uot;Either someone had just walked through it, or it just hadn’t shut all the way,&uot; Huff said, adding that he didn’t think the escape was planned in advance. &uot;I think the opportunity presented itself, and he took it.&uot;

Atkins ran through the door and headed down the hall.

&uot;(Detention officers) got into a foot race and they caught him at the end of the hall,&uot; Huff said. &uot;They tussled and fought.&uot;

He said detention officers used pepper spray, the only weapon they carry, on Atkins, but it &uot;didn’t affect him.&uot; &uot;He got away from them and got out into the front lobby where the fight continued,&uot; Huff said.

Huff said that Atkins was a &uot;big ol’ boy&uot; estimating he was about 6 foot 3 inches tall.

During the fight in the lobby, part of the glass front door was cracked, but Huff said he wasn’t sure whether it was by Atkins or one of the officers.

Eventually, Atkins managed to get out of the lobby door and into the parking lot, where the officers and patrol officer who was inside the building at the time managed to detain Atkins.

He was placed in an isolation cell and put under careful watch, Huff said. At about 2:30 p.m. detention officers responded to the cries of another inmate in the isolation block who told them Atkins had threatened to kill himself.

When they opened his cell door they found that Atkins had taken his bedsheet and was trying to hang himself from part of the window of his cell, Huff said.

&uot;The officers immediately cut him down,&uot; he said. &uot;I think he did this in an attempt to get out of here. I mean, he’s 6 (feet) 3 (inches) and where he tied the sheet is five feet off the ground. He had to squat to make it get tight.&uot;

Atkins was breathing and didn’t appear to be injured, Huff said, but he was taken by ambulance to Natchez Regional as a precaution.

Atkins was later returned to his isolation cell at the jail with the bedsheet removed.

Detention officers received only minor cuts and bruises during the fight, Huff said.

Atkins will be charged with felony escape and will be arraigned today. Huff said he will investigate to determine exactly how the door was left open and what can be done to prevent it in the future.