News release issued 19 hours after jail escapeLAKE ANDES — Eighteen hours and 45 minutes after two felons escaped Wednesday from the Charles Mix County Jail, the sheriff’s department issued a news release about it.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
LAKE ANDES — Eighteen hours and 45 minutes after two felons escaped Wednesday from the Charles Mix County Jail, the sheriff’s department issued a news release about it.
Sheriff Randy Thaler said his limited staff is the main reason he didn’t send the notification sooner. He said he and his deputies, along with Yankton Sioux Tribal Police and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, spread the word verbally that two men — Edward “Eddie” Antelope and Donald Cournoyer — were on the loose.
Antelope, 34, is considered dangerous, and both men have a history of escape, Thaler said.
The escape happened at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. The news release was not sent until about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, which meant the media dissemination of the men’s descriptions and their danger to the public was delayed by nearly 19 hours.
“I wanted to make sure information was correct,” Thaler said.
The Daily Republic made a routine daily call Wednesday afternoon to the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office and was told something newsworthy had happened, but a sheriff’s deputy said there was “nothing I can say right now.”
Thaler said he and his deputies — three of whom were on duty — were all out searching for the escapees and were not able to issue a release until later in the day.
“I don’t have a 20-man department like Sioux Falls,” he said. “I was following leads and couldn’t sit down to type out a release.”
Thaler acknowledged the deputy could have released general information about the incident in order to initially get the word out, and he said that will hopefully happen in the future. The Daily Republic also made calls to other local officials in the county Wednesday afternoon, as well as the state Department of Public Safety. All said they either had no information or could not release it.
Antelope and Cournoyer remained at large as of Thursday afternoon, and several law enforcement agencies were partnering to find them, including the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
Although the Highway Patrol has the capability to issue a statewide alert about an escape, it is something a local agency must request.
“We typically are not going to just assume that without a request from the sheriff,” said Lt. Alan Welsh of the Sioux Falls Highway Patrol Division.
Thaler said he made sure Andes Central School administrators received word of the escape immediately Wednesday morning.
Superintendent Darrell Mueller said Thursday he and his staff ran school as normal that day but kept an eye out for anyone matching descriptions of Antelope and Cournoyer.
“We have a good working relationship with law enforcement,” Mueller said. “A couple months ago they let us know about a person in the area they felt could pose a threat to the school. Law enforcement is good at keeping us informed.”