By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has found the Jefferson County Detention Facility mistakenly released the wrong inmate in January after jail personnel failed to check basic facts about the inmate who they allowed to walk out of the lockup.
“I’m certainly disappointed,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader when CBS4 interviewed him about his jail setting the wrong person free. “We have an obligation to make sure the correct people get out when they are supposed to get out … I believe a couple of checks were missed. How many? I don’t know.”
According to the CBS4 probe, the jail was supposed to release inmate Ronald A. Chavez in January after he completed his sentence related to a DUI case. He had been arrested and booked into the jail Nov. 21, 2015, according to jail records. But the day he was supposed to be released, the jail instead set free Ronald J. Chavez who had been booked into the jail Dec. 8, 2015 on a DUI case and was not due to be released until February.
“The deputy told me to pack my stuff and … that surprised me,” said the 61-year-old Chavez who had several more weeks to spend behind bars. “They got the wrong Ron Chavez.”
He told CBS4 during a jailhouse interview that as he was being inadvertently released, nobody checked his identification or his inmate wristband. And he said when a sophisticated retina scan would not confirm the correct Ron Chavez was being released, an exasperated jailer let him go anyway.
“I just complied with everything they told me and walked right out the door. I knew they got the wrong one.”
Shrader acknowledges “One of them was mistaken for the other when the release was made. They both had very similar sentences,” but look nothing alike conceded the Sheriff. “We have an obligation to make sure the correct people get out when they are supposed to get out.”
Shrader commented that the faulty release was prompting the jail to look at the practices that allowed the mix-up to happen in the first place. He said it was a case of “human error. It does give us an opportunity to learn and perfect business practices we have.”
Shrader said in 2015 the jail erroneously released inmates early five times.
As for the wrong Ron Chavez, he told CBS4 that after mistakenly being sprung from the jail his girlfriend picked him up and took him home. He said he showered, watched TV for a while, and then went out for Italian food at one of his favorite restaurants.
After about five hours though, a Jefferson County deputy sheriff was at his door, aware of the critical mistake.
“I got a free ride back to the county jail with the sheriff,” said Chavez.