Photo credit: Walker County Sheriff's Office
HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Security camera video recorded right before Trent Archie broke out of the Walker County Jail on June 28 shows a violent attack on jailers who fought hard to prevent the escape.
In the video, taken minutes before the escape, Archie's accomplice and fellow inmate Davis McLeskey is the first to invade the jailers' office, with Archie following him.
The Walker County Sheriff's Office allowed The Item to view the video, which includes a clear picture and audio.
When permitted to make phone calls, McLeskey and Archie had just received haircuts in the visitation area -- a common practice in the early morning hours at the jail. Such grooming is a basic requirement of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The jail's graveyard shift is assigned supervision of inmate barbers cutting inmates' hair.
This visitation area is situated next to the jailers' office, which is separated from the booking area by a gated, windowed counter and a locked door. Two phones, at the counter in the booking area, are available to inmates.
The video shows Archie on the phone speaking to someone, but jail officials would not say to whom while his escape is still under investigation.
McLeskey stands at the phone closest to the booking door, obviously only pretending to dial the phone while monitoring the jailers' every move.
An unidentified male jailer behind the locked door responds to an emergency alert from an inmate housed in the bunkers in the jail's interior.
"All right, I'm coming to get you," the jailer responds. When he opens the locked door leading to the booking area, a female jailer follows to lock the door behind him.
But McLeskey appears to anticipate the jailer's move and pushes his way into the office, where he attacks the male jailer. Archie is close behind and also enters the office.
Then, as the female jailer attempts to restrain McLeskey, the male jailer grapples with Archie. During this struggle, Archie lifts the jailer off his feet and slams him to the ground, then assaults him, punching him in the head.
Meanwhile, three female jailers fight to restrain McLeskey as both inmates obviously attempt to escape.
"They handled themselves well," jail administrator Capt. Stephen Fisher said in reference to the video. "They're not throwing punches. They're trying to detain. I'll be honest with you, that's tough. Really at this point, it's anything goes because they have an obligation to keep them from escaping."
As Archie inches closer to the magnetic door that leads to the lobby area, a female jailer tries to stop him, and he assaults her as well. By that point, Archie is almost out of the door when the male jailer makes a final attempt to detain him.
McLeskey continues to struggle with the other jailers, but he is still able to grab the male jailer around the back of his neck -- which caused everyone to fall to the ground except Archie and the female jailer, who dials 911.
Archie's getaway is quick. A female jailer chases him as he bolts through the front door. She grips the back of his orange jumpsuit, but Archie gets away.
Just over a minute goes by between the first door opening and the last door closing -- and Archie is gone.
Sheriff Clint McRae said Archie ran toward the southwestern part of the facility near the garden and jumped over a 6-foot gate. That's when jail staff lost sight of him.
When McLeskey was subdued, the male jailer walked him back to the booking area and waited for backup.
As a result of his escape attempt, McLeskey, 23, has been charged with third-degree felony assault on a public servant. He also has prior offenses out of New Mexico as well as another escape attempt.
Not long after his arrest in Houston early last Friday, Archie was taken to the Telford Unit in Bowie County near the Texas-Arkansas border. The transfer to a state prison was planned after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a lower court's decision to overturn Archie's 2006 murder conviction.
The Sheriff's Office said moving Archie to a state prison eliminated the risk of him escaping again from the Walker County Jail and the possibility he would be mistreated by the jailers he assaulted.
Security is a round-the-clock priority at the jail, which is a busy place in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of Huntsville is asleep, the sheriff said.
"When people ordinarily drive by, the jail is normally out of sight, out of mind," McRae said. "They probably assume it an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. operation. That's not the case. We have trusties who get up at 3 a.m. to prepare food for the inmates.
"All of this stuff is in motion inside of the jail. A lot of these inmates sleep during the day and stay up at night. Their lives are just the opposite of mine and yours."
The Sheriff's Office is continuing its internal investigation of the escape. McRae said it was too early to say whether policies or procedures would be changed in response to the findings of the investigation.
Most procedures for such activities such as visitation, recreation and medical attention, require the staff to move inmates from their cells. Some features of the outmoded jail, which are not in compliance with state jail standards, make routine inmate moves difficult and risky.
"An escape of that nature would not have taken place in an updated facility," McRae said. "This is a prime example of something we have been concerned about for five years now."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service