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Jail Security Is Beefed Up After Escape

September 04, 1987|DAVID FREED | Times Staff Writer

New security measures have been implemented at the Los Angeles County Central Jail after last week's baffling escape by a suspected cocaine kingpin from Colombia, Sheriff Sherman Block said Thursday.

Block, however, refused to detail those measures, saying only that "nobody's going to leave (the jail) today, tomorrow or next week in the same fashion."

William Londono, 23, slipped away on Aug. 25 after someone sent an unauthorized "release message" on the jail's internal computer system. He was let out of his maximum-security cell and was supposed to pass, unescorted, down a 75-foot escalator and through a series of nine checkpoints on his way out of the jail's release area one floor below.

At any of the checkpoints, deputies ostensibly could have discovered that something was amiss.

Yet records show that Londono cleared only one of the checkpoints, a guard station, and then somehow vanished--but not before retrieving the clothes he was wearing when he was arrested in April, Block said Thursday as he led reporters on a tour of the cellblock where Londono was housed.

The sheriff, meanwhile, said that his investigators have ruled out the possibility that a computer "hacker," perhaps one outside the jail or a knowledgeable inmate within, sent the message that set in motion Londono's escape.

Block noted that there were about 70 jail staff members, including deputies and civilian clerks, who had access to the computer terminal from which the message was sent. Each is being questioned.

"What is very baffling is we are still convinced that our system is a very secure one. However, if there are dishonest personnel involved . . . that's difficult to ensure against totally," Block said. "Nobody is under suspicion, but the entire process is being checked."

Block has conceded that Londono needed "inside help" to effect his escape, and there has been speculation that Londono may have bribed his way out of jail.

The escapee, who was being held in lieu of $3-million bail and was facing trial Dec. 2, reportedly had access to large sums of money.

However, Block said Thursday that it would have been difficult for Londono to have smuggled into the jail the money that he apparently would have needed to buy his freedom.

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