PORT CLINTON - The Marion, Ohio, man who escaped from the Ottawa County jail early Saturday had with him a sheriff's office Taser when police pulled him over in a stolen vehicle.
Kyle Mark, 20, found the Taser and his eventual way out of jail because "he had an extensive knowledge of locks we were unaware of," Sheriff Robert Bratton said yesterday.
Mark had been in the county jail since June on three counts of burglary and was being held in a second-floor section of the jail adjacent to a stairwell. For at least a decade, the stairwell was locked and not used as a way in or out of the jail.
Instead, the sheriff's office used the stairwell for storage - files, firearms, chemical mace, and Tasers.
"Obviously, we've changed procedures," Sheriff Bratton said. "I take full responsibility because this was outside my office area. We always felt it was secure from inmates.
"Most burglars who come in don't have an extensive knowledge of locks," he added.
Mark was in bed when staff did a periodic check of the minimum security area about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Shortly after, he picked the lock to the stairwell, went up to the third-floor landing where he found a cardboard box contain-ing four Tasers - so far unused by the sheriff's office - and took one.
He went back down the stairs and used a drain lid to break a window, cutting his hands in the process, and jumped about 15 feet to the ground. A security camera captured an image of him on tape about 12:35 a.m. coming from behind a fir tree and walking down the sidewalk.
Mark, carrying a pillowcase containing bloody towels and the Taser, got away on a bicycle he found in the neighborhood, Sheriff Bratton said. Mark was in a Jeep when he was pulled over about 1 a.m. by a Port Clinton police officer for driving with his lights off.
"He's had an extensive criminal history since he was 16 years old," Sheriff Bratton said. "He's never had a driver's license. He possibly never drove a car."
Mark placed his hands on the steering wheel and told the police officer he had just escaped from the jail. Jail staff did not know he was gone.
Mark was in lockdown and isolation last night in the county jail in lieu of $30,000 bond. The case will be presented to the Ottawa County grand jury later this month, the sheriff said.
All the locks and windows in the jail have been examined and some have been replaced.
"We're taking [the escape] as a time to stop and assess our jail," Sheriff Bratton said.
He met with county commissioners yesterday, explained what happened, and "they were very receptive."
"I told them publicly that this isn't anybody's fault but mine. The staff didn't do anything wrong," Sheriff Bratton said. "I learned from it. I'm just glad it wasn't worse."
But John Papcun, president of the commissioners, doesn't blame anyone in the sheriff's office. He said state inspectors never said the stairwell was a problem.
"Since no one was hurt, [the escape was] maybe a good thing," Mr. Papcun said. "We found out where the weak spots were."
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