Detention officer under investigation

Sharna Johnson

A Curry County detention officer who took two inmates outside the jail to have lunch earlier this week is under administrative investigation, Administrator Keith Norwood said Thursday.

Norwood said he stumbled onto the trio Tuesday as they sat on the east side of the detention center, eating their jail-prepared meals.

One of the inmates was Rico Sena, one of four inmates officials said went on an armed rampage while trying to escape jail Feb. 21.

The second inmate was Albert Lopez, awaiting trial on charges of DWI and driving without a license.

“I was upset but once I found out, it was dealt with immediately,” Norwood said Thursday. “I’m blown away by it.”

Norwood said the detention officer remains on active-duty status while the investigation is being conducted.

Norwood said Sena and the other inmate were on work details inside the facility. He said the detention officer, who he would not name, did not have the authority or permission to take either inmate outside.

Norwood said Sena has been working within the facility, and, “has been doing a good job.”

“But that’s no excuse for what the officer did … (Sena) shouldn’t have been outside at all.”

Norwood declined to comment on the investigation, citing personnel matters.

Referring to the incident as unacceptable, Norwood said work details are still good for the inmates and good for the community.

Before they are allowed on a detail, he said the files of inmates are checked for the nature of their criminal charges, history of violence or escape, medical conditions and general behavior at the facility.

Sena is awaiting trial, charged with:

• Possession of deadly weapon by an inmate;

• Escape from jail;

• Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon causing great bodily harm;

• Criminal damage to property over $1,000;

Officials said in the escape attempt, Sena and three other inmates smashed holes through concrete block walls to escape from their cells and ran free within the facility, carrying a broken desk and handmade shanks, and causing more than $14,000 in damage before being subdued by law officers.