Inmate with gun shuts down courthouse complex

By Marilyn Tennissen | Jul 2, 2007

Beaumont police officers secured the Jefferson County Courthouse after an inmate with a gun held corrections officers hostage at the adjacent city jail.

An inmate with a gun at the Beaumont city jail caused a tense morning at the Jefferson County Courthouse Monday.

At around 8:30 a.m., a federal inmate being held on charges of aggravated robbery on the fourth floor of the city jail obtained what is believed to be a gun and held two people hostage for about an hour.

As the busy workday began, employees in the adjacent courthouse were told to remain in their offices or were evacuated as the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and Beaumont Police Department secured the area.

The two hostages were believed to be corrections officers that work for the private management company that operates the jail.
About an hour later, the inmate surrendered and was returned to custody. There were no reports of injuries. The courthouse was reopened for regular business by around 9:40 a.m.

Investigators are still trying to locate the gun used by the inmate, and some reports say it may have been an object made to look like a gun.

The incident sparked renewed discussions of courthouse security.
Senior Judge Gary Sanderson said he's a "strong advocate" of enhancing courthouse security and that two studies on improving courthouse security have been accomplished recently. Drug Impact Court Judge Larry Gist is the strongest petitioner for better security.

"We need some type of security system to protect people. Lawyers who come here from out of the area can't believe we don't have more security," Sanderson said. "Most people who work here agree we need to have something."

Courthouse staff say they would like to see metal detectors installed at all entrances, and have a PA system installed to alert people in the courthouse of dangerous situations.

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