'I was physically ill when I got the notification,' Fremont County undersheriff on third inmate escape

Dianne Derby and Undersheriff Derek Irvine
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 11, 2024

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. — To say it's an embarrassment for Fremont County Undersheriff Derek Irvine that another inmate has escaped his department's jail in Canon City is an understatement.

Undersheriff Irvine: I was physically ill when I got the notification on Friday.
Dianne Derby: Were you here?
Undersheriff Irvine: No.

Inmate escapes from Fremont County Jail

Irvine shared jail surveillance video he says shows the moment 45-year-old Kegan Van Vliet, escaped from the Fremont County Detention Center. it was around 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 7th. The sheriff's office sent out this alert warning people Van Vliet was last seen heading south and that multiple agencies were involved in the manhunt. They said he was being held on several charges including attempted murder.

The U.S. Marshals Service said he was spotted shortly after midnight 50 miles away in Colorado Springs. They said he was seen near I-25 and North Nevada Avenue where he once again tried to run but was caught.

In May of last year, two other inmates were captured hours after Irvine said they escaped when they took out the trash. At the time, they were considered what is known as "trustees," more trusted inmates at the jail.

How did two inmates escape Fremont County Detention Center?

Dianne Derby: Aren't they commonly taking trash out?
Undersheriff Irvine: Yes, they are.
Dianne Derby: So, this is an opportunity for anyone to get away if you're telling me that?
Undersheriff Irvine: Yes.
Dianne Derby: How do you change that now because that seems like a mistake that just can't happen?
Undersheriff Irvine: Absolutely. At this point I have an audit going on for the security concerns for our facility. We're looking at the trustee program itself, who is selected, who gets picked, which assignments they get based off their charges.

That day, Undersheriff Irvine showed me the room in the jail from which they escaped as they were about to be escorted by staff to the dumpsters. The back door had been opened electronically by jail staff to allow them out.

This time he showed the same transparency taking me directly to the inmate booking area where the suspect escaped and providing surveillance video outside of the facility showing part of the escape.

Dianne Derby: How did this happen?
Undersheriff Irvine: From the preliminary investigation that we've completed inside the facility at this point, and, granted, this is an active investigation so I can't go into specifics, but one of the first issues we found was we believe that there was a software and a hardware issue with the door controllers for the facility.
Dianne Derby: What is the backup plan when the software fails?
Undersheriff Irvine: Manual manipulation of the locks.
Dianne Derby: Have you ever had that problem before?
Undersheriff Irvine: Not to my knowledge, you know, but again, I've only been back here at the office since 2019.

Irvine said he believes the problem has been isolated just to the booking area but he has asked the vendor, Johnson Controls, to come to the facility for an audit of the system. Johnson Controls spokesperson Kari Pfisterer issued a statement that said, "We are currently investigating this matter and we will offer support during the investigation."

Until his department knows all of the details the escape, Irvine said he has implemented more changes he hopes will better keep his facility secure.

Undersheriff Irvine: One of the measures that we've taken is anytime there's an inmate out on the booking floor, there is going to be a staff member out on the booking floor. Also, we're not trusting the automatic locking mechanisms for the sallyport doors coming into the facility in the booking. So those doors will be manually locked and unlocked by a staff member.
Dianne Derby: How moving forward do you deal with the morale in your department? Is that your responsibility?
Undersheriff Irvine: I believe it's every one of us. It's all of our responsibilities to to deal with that and address it.

Irvine said Van Vliet was taken back to his facility on Saturday and is currently assigned to a maximum security cell. He said Van Vliet is facing additional charges for the escape.

News 5 has asked the Colorado Springs Police Department for the body camera video of Van Vliet's arrest and they said it would not be released at this time since it is under investigation.


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