By Austin L. Miller
Ocala Star-Banner, Fla.
OCALA, Fla. — An internal affairs investigation has found fault with the ex-detention deputy who was overseeing a Marion County Jail inmate who escaped from a local hospital room in January.
Jacqueline Johnson-Cabrera resigned in lieu of termination in February. Authorities said she was hired as a detention assistant in September 2019.
According to the investigation, Johnson-Cabrera removed the inmate’s restraints, which “allowed her to move about the hospital room freely.”
The report said Johnson-Cabrera “failed to position herself to allow for a direct view of the inmate or position herself between the inmate and the exit.”
The investigation also found that when Johnson-Cabrera discovered the inmate had escaped, “she made no attempt to pursue or track down the inmate who was under her direct supervision.”
The inmate, Jessica Potter, had been arrested by an Ocala Police Department officer on Jan. 24 at a fast food restaurant. She had a warrant for her arrest for violation of probation for drug offenses. When sitting in an officer’s vehicle, police officials said, Potter had a seizure, then was unconscious.
Potter was given a dose of Narcan. Medical personnel were called. They arrived and transported Potter to Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Officers said Potter, 26, of Ocala, was in possession of drugs at the time she was taken into custody. Local court records indicate Potter’s cases are ongoing.
According to the internal affairs report, Johnson-Cabrera said nurses made Potter take a shower. The detention deputy said Potter was in the bathroom and she tried calling a nurse. The nurse came to the room, went into the bathroom and left when the inmate was finished.
Potter asked Johnson-Cabrera for some water, and the detention deputy complied. Potter asked her to leave the door open because she felt sick.
The detention deputy left the door open. Johnson-Cabrera said she would continually ask Potter about her condition. One time when she didn’t get a response, Johnson-Cabrera thought Potter might have passed out.
Johnson-Cabrera went into the bathroom and didn’t see Potter. She opened the shower curtain and didn’t see Potter. The detention deputy then went out the hallway and asked nurses if they saw Potter.
According to the report, hospital surveillance video shows that after Potter went missing, Johnson-Cabrera was talking with nurses, making a phone call and walking to the hospital room.
A nurse told sheriff’s officials that she she looked for Potter. The nurse said she didn’t know Potter was an inmate because “there was no guard pursuing her.”
The investigator noted they made several attempts to interview other hospital employees, but were unsuccessful.
Johnson-Cabrera told the investigator she never thought about calling the jail watch commander to get permission to remove Potter’s restraints, or to allow Potter to take a bath. Asked if she ever considered chasing Potter, Johnson-Cabrera said no.
“I don’t know where I was supposed to go,” she was quoted as saying in the report.
Law enforcement officials set up a perimeter and Potter was apprehended by Maj. Clint Bowen of the MCSO, head of the county jail, in a backyard on Southeast 12th Street. Potter was taken to ORMC for evaluation and, once she was cleared, went to the jail. She is still being held without bail.
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