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River City employees disciplined for 'failing' to do security and inmate checks after July 9 escape

Correctional center releases internal report on escape
Screenshot of River City surveillance video showing former inmates Thomas Cromwell and Shawn Black escaping from the facility on July 9
Posted at 7:42 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 19:42:35-04

CINCINNATI — An internal River City Correctional Center report released on Thursday describes previously undisclosed failures by several employees and the discipline they received after two inmates escaped through a window on July 9 and weren't identified as missing for about 10 hours.

Two days later, one of the escapees, Thomas Cromwell, held a woman hostage at knifepoint during a 12-hour standoff with police, according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell. The standoff ended when members of the Warren County Tactical Unit shot and killed Cromwell.

River City Correctional Center escapee Thomas Cromwell during a stand off with police on July 11 before an officer shot and killed him
River City Correctional Center escapee Thomas Cromwell during a stand off with police on July 11 before an officer shot and killed him

The second escapee, Shawn Black, was captured on July 13.

According to River City's incident review report, several 'resident supervisors' failed to do required security rounds and inmate counts the day of the escape.

One employee received a one-day suspension and will be retrained.

A second employee — who was on probationary status — also lied to investigators, according to River City records. He was "removed." It's not clear if that means he was terminated.

A third employee who also failed to promptly notify law enforcement about the escape received undisclosed discipline.

River City Executive Director Scott McVey did not respond directly to emailed questions about the disciplinary actions mentioned in the records.

The internal investigation used surveillance video to retrace Cromwell and Black's escape. The investigation found the inmates crawled through a small window in the back of the dorm.

Staff discovered it was broken earlier that week and had covered it with Plexiglas and plywood.

At a news conference in July, River City Executive Director Scott McVey said Cromwell and Black removed all of it.

River City inmates Thomas Cromwell and Shawn Black removed a window and crawled through the opening to escape
River City inmates Thomas Cromwell and Shawn Black removed a window and crawled through the opening to escape

"The window that the gentlemen go out was a construction flaw for something of this nature," McVey said. "There were no pinnings in the windows to keep it in the brick. So, literally, they removed the caulk and removed the entire window frame."

River City's investigation found staff didn't know Cromwell and Black were missing until around 10:30 a.m. when an employee noticed the window had been removed.

New counts confirmed the two inmates were missing, according to the internal report.

An off-duty employee spotted the escapees minutes later outside this apartment building in the Beechmont/Anderson area.

According to his statement, he called River City's security chief and asked if there had been an escape. The security chief said no. After that, the staff confirmed the two men had escaped and contacted law enforcement.

River City's records show the facility also made nine dorm area windows more secure and made other improvements in an effort to prevent another escape.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting the investigation of the police shooting that killed Cromwell.

On Thursday, the Attorney General's Office, which oversees BCI, said that investigation is ongoing.

Black, the inmate who escaped with Cromwell, pleaded guilty to escape and burglary charges, according to court records. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

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