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Two inmates escape from downtown jail

The two escapees, David White (l) and Vernon Collins.
(St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department)
The two escapees, David White (l) and Vernon Collins.

Updated 12:10 a.m. Saturday:

Mayor Francis Slay reports that second inmate, Vernon Collins, has been captured.

Updated 4:19 p.m.:

According to KSDK, David White has been captured in St. Louis.

Updated 9:55 a.m. with comments from Commissioner Gene Stubblefield

City corrections commssioner Gene Stubblefield provided the following details about Collins' and White's escape:

  • Both inmates were in the medical unit at the St. Louis Justice Center
  • Around 2 a.m. a staff member heard a loud noise from a cell in the medical unit. That staffer prompted another guard to investigate the sound. That second guard investigates but does not enter the cell before returning to his post.
  • Approximately an hour later, staffers heard a similar sound from the same area. A guard makes a second attempt to investigate, but again does not enter the cell before returning to his post.
  • A nurse making medical rounds at 6 a.m. discovered Collins and White missing. The two had gained access to the ceiling and were able to get through rebar covering windows.
  • The two men used a rope made of sheets to climb down from the second story.

Stubblefield says any corrections personnel who did not follow Justice Center security policies could be terminated. He says no one has yet been suspended or disciplined.
This is the first escape from the St. Louis Justice Center in nine years of operation, Stubblefield says, but two teenaged inmates escaped from the Medium Security Institution 10 months ago. Jail employees were fired after that break.

"We're going to look at everything," Stubblefield says. "We're going to look at our management approach, we'll take a look at our security protocols, at both facilities.  When these situations occur, we automatically will look at every aspect of our security."

Updated 9am with comments from the U.S. Marshals Service

Law enforcement officials are looking this morning for two inmates who escaped from the city Justice Centerthis morning.

Vernon Collins, 34 and David White, 33, both climbed out of a front window at the jail, which is located in downtown St. Louis across from City Hall, around 7 a.m. The investigation revealed that both men had shed their yellow corrections jumpsuits before the escape, so they are likely wearing white shorts and T-shirts and white tennis shoes.

Collins, who is a 6'1" black man weighing 170 pounds, was being held on charges for 1st degree assault on a law enforcement officer, armed criminal action, 1st degree assault, resisting arrest, and disarming a peace or correctional officer.

David White, who is 6'2", 180 pounds, and black, was in jail on 1st degree burglary, 2nd degree domestic assault, unlawful use of a weapon, 1st degree endangering the welfare of a child, and 2nd degree property damage.

Anyone who spots the suspects should call 911.

The escape is the second in the last ten months from a St. Louis corrections facility. Last June, two teenagers escaped from the medium security prison north of St. Louis.

The City Justice Center houses federal inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service. A spokesman says there have been no conversations yet about moving those prisoners from the facility in light of the escape, as the service did following the escape of two federal prisoners from the Lincoln County jail in November.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.