Two Alexandria sheriff's deputies have been fired following a Keystone Kops-style incident in which they and a prisoner in their custody reportedly spent several hours drinking and socializing at a trailer owned by one of the deputies.
The episode, which a department investigator called "the most serious breach of security in my 12 years of law enforcement," was detailed in an internal report obtained by The Washington Post.
Alexandria Sheriff Michael Norris refused to identify the deputies involved, saying the men had "suffered enough." But the internal report identified the two as James Tisch of Alexandria and Charies E. Young of Woodbridge.
Neither could be reached for comment.
Norris said both men had been in the sheriff's department less than a year and were suspended without pay and stripped of their credentials immediately after the Jan. 18 incident.
"I couldn't believe it," Norris said this week. "The whole thing's embarrassing."
According to the report, written by investigator Joseph Soos, Tisch and Young drove the sheriff's department van to Page County, about 120 miles west of Washington. There they picked up Garland E. Collins, 26, a prisoner due to stand trial in Alexandria the next day on a false prescription charge.
Because of repairs to the Alexandria jail, prisoners are farmed out to 18 facilities around Virginia, some as far away as Roanoke, Norris said.
The report said that en route to Alexandria, Tisch and Young stopped outside Luray, Va., and bought a fifth of vodka. Along the way, they became intoxicated "or nearly so", according to the report, became engrossed in a conversation about personal problems and forgot they had the prisoner in the van.
The deputies told Soos later that Collins was "a very quiet prisoner."
The report said that Tisch told Young "he was late for a date" and wanted to stop by his trailer on Rte. 1 in Alexandria to make a few phone calls. Once they arrived at the trailer, Collins' handcuffs were removed and he was invited inside.
According to Soos' report, the prisoner "made a call which lasted a long time and Young and Tisch resumed their conversation which again became 'so deep' that they forgot the time."
According to the internal document, the three men were joined by two friends of Tisch, one of them a police officer who later told investigators he did not realize the man on the phone was a prisoner.
The eyewitness is quoted in the report as having seen the prisoner "chug scotch from a bottle at least twice."
After spending "quite a few hours" at the trailer drinking and talking, the report said. Young decided to go home. At midnight, Tisch called Investigator Soos.
According to the investigator, Tisch sounded "intoxicated" on the phone. "He (Tisch) stated that he had the prisoner home with him. I asked if he were joking," Soos wrote, and he stated that no, he had (the prisoner) home with him, not to worry. It was okay." Tisch also told Soos that the prisoner "was a nice guy and he'd let him sleep on the couch."
Collins, who was reluctant to be interviewed by the sheriff's department, later told Soos, "he wanted his attorney and that he was afraid he'd be stabbed in the back if he talked about what went on," according to the report.
Soos told Tisch to stay at the trailer and not to move the prisoner. The investigator said he would arrive shortly. But Tisch, according to the report, decided to return Collins to the Alexandria jail. After a futile search for the keys to the sheriff's van parked next to the trailer, Collins was transported -- without handcuffs -- by Tisch and one of the men in the friend's car, the report said.
Tisch and Young both were cited for "critical breaches of security, being intoxicated while on duty, making false statements to a supervisor, disobeying direct orders and improper inmate handling procedures," the report said.
The report concluded that both men "had placed themselves and the citizens in potential physical danger of an inmate... neither fully cooperated with this investigation and both placed an inmate in peril of physical harm."
"It's just unfortunate," Norris said this week. "With human beings involved, human mistakes are going to be made."
Norris said he asked Acting Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch to review the incident and the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the two deputies. Kloch, according to Norris, recommended against prosecution.
Tisch and Young were suspended Jan. 19 and fired a week later when the internal investigation was completed, Norris said.