Inmate’s escape: Phones, wire cutters, a drone and $47,000

This undated photo shows Jimmy Causey, who was re-captured in Texas early Friday after his second escape from a maximum security prison in South Carolina, prison officials said. (South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

This undated photo shows Jimmy Causey, who was re-captured in Texas early Friday after his second escape from a maximum security prison in South Carolina, prison officials said. (South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina inmate broke out of a maximum-security prison using wire cutters apparently flown in by drone, officials said Friday, describing a new and devilishly hard-to-stop means of escape.

Convicted kidnapper Jimmy Causey, 46, was recaptured at a Texas motel before daybreak, more than two days after bolting to freedom in a plot worthy of a Hollywood script. It was the second time in 12 years that he escaped.

This time, he used a smuggled-in cellphone to coordinate the delivery of the breakout tools, investigators said. Then, with dusk approaching on the Fourth of July, he cut through four fences and left a dummy in his bed that fooled his guards. He got an 18-hour head start.

When he was caught, he had about $47,000 in cash, an ID card and two guns, authorities said.

“We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape,” South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said. He said investigators were still trying to confirm that, and he didn’t elaborate on why they believe a drone was involved.

But an official aerial photo of the prison shows rings of tall fences and an expanse of more than 50 yards between the prison perimeter and the cellblocks, making it unlikely someone could have thrown or catapulted tools to him.

Kevin Tamez, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who consults on prison security as managing partner of the New Jersey-based MPM Group, said he wasn’t aware of any other U.S. prison escapes aided by drones.

Tamez said that delivering something heavy such as wire or bolt cutters via drone would require a sophisticated plan and a powerful machine.

“They have to land for you to get the contraband off of them,” he said. “They can’t drop it like a bomb.”

Tamez said there is no easy way for prisons to protect against the use of small, unmanned aircraft, other than hiring more guards to watch the fences.

Stirling said the state is spending millions to install netting at prisons to prevent people from throwing things over, but confessed that won’t stop drones.

“Now they’re going to fly over the nets,” he said. “So what do we do next?”

A tip led Texas Rangers to a motel room in Austin where Causey was found sleeping around 4 a.m. Friday, authorities said. Texas officials released a photo of a handgun, shotgun, four cellphones and stacks of cash found with Causey about 1,200 miles from the Lieber Correctional Institution prison near Charleston.

Prison officials are investigating how his 8 p.m. disappearance Tuesday went unnoticed until 2 p.m. the next day.

“Everyone who assisted him — we intend on bringing them to justice as well,” State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said.

Later Friday, Corrections officials said one Lieber employee had been fired in connection with Causey’s disappearance, providing no other details.

Causey was sentenced to life behind bars 13 years ago for holding a lawyer at gunpoint. Authorities said he believed the defense attorney did not do enough to keep him out of prison in the 1990s.

In his first escape, from a different South Carolina prison in 2005, he and another inmate hid in a garbage truck that was leaving the maximum-security institution. They were arrested three days later after a woman delivering pizza to a motel called police.

Drones have been used to deliver contraband such as drugs and cellphones to prisons across the U.S., including two cases in recent years from South Carolina. In May, two men were arrested for trying to fly knives, marijuana and phones into a medium-security state prison. Another man is serving a 15-year sentence after officials found a crashed drone outside a maximum-security institution in 2014.

Authorities in Britain said two inmates there escaped from prison last year by cutting through window bars using a saw and wire cutters that were believed to have been flown in via drone.

Advanced technology and highly motivated prisoners can be a dangerous combination.

“You have nothing to do but sit on the edge of your bunk and figure out ways to get past the system,” Tamez said. “You can’t get complacent with them. These guys aren’t stupid.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Snohomish Delivers concierge Sarah Dylan Jensen picks up tea from Everything Tea on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2020 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A Snohomish service brings goods from the store to your door

Developed by the city, Snohomish Delivers encourages online shoppers to look local. And it’s free.

Jim Lawless
Lawless won’t seek permanent police chief job in Edmonds

The interim chief says the city needs to move on from the controversy of last year’s hiring process.

Jay Inslee takes the oath of office for his third term as governor. (Governor Jay Inslee)
Governor Inslee: We are going forward toward a ‘new normal’

At the start of an historic third term, the governor is charting a course out of the pandemic.

Everett firefighter’s lawsuit alleges racist actions were ignored

Jason Anderson was allegedly told to “suck it up” after reporting the conduct to his supervisor.

People line up for COVID-19 vaccinations at Paine Field in Everett. (Snohomish County Emergency Coordination Center)
Drive-thru vaccination clinics open in Everett and Lynnwood

More sites are planned as Snohomish County gets closer to broadening who is eligible for a shot.

Nearly 1,000 still without power after mid-week storm

Power is restored to more than 200,000 customers, but others still wait after more than 60 hours.

$300 unemployment supplement headed to bank accounts

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will be available for up to 11 weeks.

Man sentenced for tire iron assault at Everett ATM

Years of mental health and drug-related struggles led up Johnnie Hilliard’s actions in December 2019.

Marc Lamont Hill will speak about race, politics and American life in an online presentation Wednesday as part of Everett Community College's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. (Everett Community College)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to be honored in new ways

Pandemic means changes in how the community will celebrate. Virtual and drive-by events are planned.

Most Read