Failure to follow procedures led to escape at Circuit Court
Public Safety Director Ted Sakai says a lackadaisical attitude toward security, and failure to adhere to written policies and protocols is what led to the escape of accused murderer Teddy Munet early Wednesday morning from the loading bay at Honolulu Circuit Court.
"It's very disheartening," said Sakai. "I'm very relieved that nobody got hurt, but we did expend a lot of public resources to find this guy, and we did create a lot of fear in the community."
Munet, 29, was captured Wednesday at about 7:20 p.m. outside of an apartment building at 1133 Waimanu St. after police received a 911 call.
Munet is accused of murdering his friend, William Fallau, last July with a single gunshot to the back of the neck. He arrived at Circuit Court from the Oahu Community Correctional Center for a hearing related to the killing, but took off running while wearing handcuffs and a belly chain. Sakai said written policy calls on all prisoners to also be restrained with leg chains.
"I have told OCCC orally and in writing, that they have to comply with our policies on this," Sakai told reporters.
Other policies that were not followed on the morning of the escape include a failure to secure prison vans behind a locked gate before prisoners are unloaded at Circuit Court, and determining whether Munet was required to be in street clothes. According to State Judiciary spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa, Munet was not facing a jury Wednesday, and could have been dressed in a prison jumpsuit.
"I was told he had a proceeding that might involve a jury," said Sakai. "I want to know what is OCCC's policies in terms of who gets put in civilian clothes, and who gets transported to court in the jumpsuit."
Still unknown is whether corrections officers in charge of Munet had access to a two-way radio. Sakai said the two guards did have a cellphone.
"They should have a radio, but if they don't, that would be a serious concern to me," said Sakai, "and that's something we need to fix right away."
On Monday, Sakai is scheduled to meet with prison officials from OCCC, as well as a representative from the National Institute of Corrections, an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons. The top-down review will examine all aspects of prisoner security and transportation.
"Our responsibility is make sure something like this never, ever happens again," said Sakai.
Sakai also plans on reviewing fitness standards for correctional officers. During Wednesday's escape, two guards who gave chase after Munet couldn't keep up. Currently, the only physical endurance test corrections officers must pass is before they are hired.
"Apparently, we haven't had these requirements for a number of years now," said Sakai. "But, it's something I definitely need to talk to the Department of Human Resources and with the unions about."
Statewide, corrections officers are represented by United Public Workers, a union that represents many blue-collar workers across the state.
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