VAN ZANDT COUNTY (KYTX) - CBS 19 is the only station to get a hold of surveillance video of the Van Zandt County jail inmates escaping from their cells last month, when they found out how to manipulate faulty cell locks.
We also got an exclusive look at the hallway and cells inside the jail where this all happened.
On the night of June 30, the staff member watching Van Zandt Jail security screens thought he saw a movement in Hall A.
"At oneo'clockk in the morning that's unusual," says Van Zandt County Chief George Flowers. "When the other officers got down there, everything was secured."
Chief Flowers says the lieutenant on duty insisted on watching the surveillance video to be sure, and what he saw shocked him.
"One [inmate] came out and went right across the hall to the window across the hall and probably opened it up and said 'hey guys look at me!' Then he shut it and he went back in. Then two other ones came out two or three minutes later and ran about halfway down the hall and ran back," Chief Flowers explains.
He says bed sheets draped over the inmates heads kept their identities hidden.
"They had the sheet over their head and they'd taken their pants off even. It made it hard to tell who they were," Flowers says.
The good news is, they at least know which cell these three men are kept in.
"It could have been any of the 12 inmates who had access to that door," Flowers says.
He says all twelve are dangerous men.
"Everybody in that hallway is classified maximum security. So this is not their first rodeo so to speak. They've either been charged with an assault or they have a past history of violence," he says.
Every day since the incident, he is thankful no one was hurt.
"I've been in detention and corrections my entire life and I've seen staff get killed by inmates, so this was definitely a blessing. Luck was on our side this time."
We were allowed to take the very first look at the locks that were manipulated. Now, every single one has been replaced.
"Plus, we've beefed up security," Chief Flowers says. "We keep somebody in that hallway now 24 hours a day."
Now, Flowers and his staff are watching the video on repeat, making sure this will never happens again. Although right now they don't have any proof, they will continue to investigate and figure out who those inmates were who escaped. If the inmates are eventually identified, they face disciplines including possible jail time added to their sentences
After this incident, the State Jail Commission sent a notice to every jail in Texas, asking staff members to inspect their locks. No other faulty locks were found. Chief Flowers says he knows other jails have beefed up security too.