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County reacted quickly to escapees

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Reverse 911 enacted; Officers directed to wear bullet-proof vests

By Molly Haines

When prisoners Bobby Cockerell, Jerry Sargent and Christopher Marshall escaped from an Indiana prison March 20 and made their way to Carroll County, Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond took every precaution to ensure that citizens of the county stayed alert and aware.

Hammond said he and his deputies worked long hours throughout the county to keep an eye out for the escapees.

“We stayed on patrol 24 hours a day,” Hammond said. “We had perimeters set up through Wheatley and New Liberty and extra patrol throughout the county.”

Hammond said he worked with Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith to notify citizens of the possible dangers.

“We used the One Call Now Emergency Notification System to notify citizens of the county to stay alert,” Hammond said. “We made sure to tell everyone to keep their doors locked, to not leave their keys in their car and things like that.”

Keith said employees at the court house were notified and given information.

“When we heard the news I went to the sheriff’s office to confirm that it was true,” Keith said. “After that, we put it on the 911-calling system and made sure that every office in the courthouse had pictures of the escapees.”

Hammond said he and his deputies also took extra precautions.

“We made sure everyone had on their bullet-proof vests,” Hammond said. “After we learned that the escapees were armed, everyone kept a rifle in their patrol car. We stayed in touch by using our cell phones.”

Hammond also made frequent contact with the Grant and Carroll counties’ sheriffs, the Kentucky State Police and the U.S. Marshal’s office.

“We talked to all of the banks and notified them of what was going on,” Hammond said. “The banks took extra precautions beyond what they generally do. The schools went into lock-down mode and the bus drivers were all made aware of the situation.”

An officer was stationed at each school in Owen County at the end of the day to keep a watchful eye on the students as they made their way to their buses.

“We had a student here who was kin to Sargent,” Hammond said. “At the end of the day I would personally follow that student’s bus home to make sure the student got there and got in the home safely.”

Hammond said the Sheriff’s Office received many phone calls from citizens who believed they had seen the 1998 Ford Ranger the escapees were driving.

“We got all kinds of phone calls from people giving us tips that they had seen the Ford Ranger,” Hammond said. “We checked them all out but none of them led to anything.”

 Thursday night, the three men were captured and taken into custody in Nebraska. 

“I’m very pleased with the local law enforcement,” Hammond said. “We all worked together to do what we could to make sure everyone stayed safe.”

Hammond said he is also pleased with the citizens of Owen County for their help and making sure neighbors were aware of the situation.

“The citizens of Owen County really kept an eye on things and checked on elders to make sure they kept their doors locked and stayed safe,” Hammond said. “I also really appreciate the way the schools worked together and cooperated.”