Law enforcement officers from around the county were called into action when an inmate escaped the Franklin County Jail Wednesday morning.
Ricky A. Johnson Jr., 37, Sullivan, escaped from custody at 6 a.m. Wednesday and was apprehended just after 2 p.m. Union police assisted in a manhunt during the entire eight-hour search.
The situation was unique for the Union Police Department. The jail is located in the Union city limits, but because Johnson fled from the county jail, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department took control of the hunt.
“The sheriff’s office has a larger staff than we do, about five times bigger,” Union Police Capt. Kyle Kitcher said. “Usually, we can lean on them for a situation like this. The sheriff’s office still is in our venue and we will help in any way we can, and we did. All the agencies in Franklin County work very well together. We don’t look at this as a problem another agency has, it is a law enforcement problem. We worked together to resolve the issue.”
The Union department assisted the sheriff’s department during the manhunt by providing patrol officers. Additional officers were called in to help and not leave the department shorthanded.
“The decision was made early on, we were going to call people in for help,” Kitcher said. “We called in about three or four guys to help out. The plan was to assist in any way we could.”
Kitcher said most Union officers helped with the perimeter.
Escapes are rare, but Kitcher said it seems like there’s about one manhunt a year. He said the goal is to keep the suspect in a small space.
“In a perfect world, you build a big perimeter and then you squeeze in,” Kitcher said. “You want a line of sight to develop an effective perimeter.”
Building the perimeter meant constant communication. Officers from various agencies were stationed throughout the area near the jail all day and frequently moved around to provide better coverage.
Perimeter support was just part of the search. Kitcher said some Union officers helped the effort in a different way.
County dispatchers received a number of calls with possible sightings of Johnson. Union police helped check out several of those reports.
Kitcher said the officers also searched the more remote parts of the city.
One thing Kitcher was tasked with doing was helping get the word out. The city sent out a CodeRED message and Union police posted Johnson’s picture on its social media accounts.
“Law enforcement did a lot of things right in this response,” Kitcher said. “We put the information out to the public quickly via media and social media, and for those who were working and did not have time to review media or social media, it was quickly pushed out through the city’s CodeRED.”
Kitcher said he also went around Union to see if anyone may have missed the information.
“I went to many of the businesses in the area with a photo of the subject,” he said. “I asked for their help if they should encounter someone that matches the description of the suspect.”
The officers not helping with the manhunt were left to respond to the daily calls. Kitcher said Wednesday was a busy day with a number of reports.
“We were extremely busy, there was no one left in the office, we all responded to reported sightings, or lone males walking throughout Union.”
At the end of the day, after eight hours, Johnson was captured and taken back to the jail. Kitcher said some officers got behind on reports because of the manhunt efforts, but operations had mostly returned to normal.