Jail escapee note cites fear of COVID-19 as reason for escape

Police are searching for a Rock Island man and a Bellingham man who fled the Okanogan County Jail.

By Pete O’Cain / The Wenatchee World

OKANOGAN — An inmate who escaped Tuesday morning from the Okanogan County Jail left a note saying the jail wasn’t doing enough to protect inmates from COVID-19.

Christian E. White, 53, of Rock Island and Kristofer L. Wittman, 28, of Bellingham were reported as escaped from the jail at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

White allegedly left a note that, “essentially states he escaped the jail because he was in fear for his life due to COVID-19 and the jail was not doing enough to protect the inmates from it,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Douglas County Superior Court.

Last month, the jail reported an outbreak in which 11 inmates and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. More recent figures were not immediately available.

The affidavit says White and Wittman escaped Tuesday through a ventilation shaft in the jail module they were being held.

A preliminary investigation by jailers found the two exited the roof area through a heating, ventilation and air condition system. A jailer wrote in the affidavit that, “A small side panel appeared to be pushed open from the inside, this panel appeared to have provided sufficient space for the escapees to gain access to the roof.”

White was reported to authorities as out of custody at 6:10 a.m. by a man who gave White a car ride from the jail. The man told a jailer he picked up White at 5:45 a.m. after receiving a call from White saying he’d posted bail, the affidavit said. The man told the jail that after learning White was an escapee, he kicked him out of his car near 12 Tribes Resort Casino in Omak.

White on Monday presented Douglas County Superior Court with a motion to reduce his bail, which had been set at $25,000, but the motion was denied, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday in Superior Court.

White and Wittman were last seen wearing blue inmate clothing and white long underwear. It’s unclear whether the two have remained together or have split up since their escape, the sheriff’s office said in its news release.

Wittman also left a note, reading “Watch one hand while the other one leaves. See you on the flip side,” according to the affidavit.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Tony Hawley said deputies are reviewing phone calls made by the pair in hopes of learning more about what prompted the escape.

“Right now, our big concentration is trying to locate them, get them back in custody,” Hawley said.

He added the two damaged the jail facility while escaping.

White was in custody for a Department of Corrections warrant, attempt to elude, possession of a controlled substance — methamphetamine, hit and run, third-degree malicious mischief and fourth-degree assault.

Wittman was in custody for possession of a stolen vehicle, attempt to elude, obstructing, reckless driving, second-degree driving with a suspended license, second-degree attempted escape and second-degree malicious mischief.

The sheriff’s office intends to pursue additional charges of second-degree escape and first-degree malicious mischief against both, according to the release.

Anyone who sees White or Wittman is asked to call Okanogan County Communications at 422-7232. The public is advised against attempting to apprehend them.

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