Cyrus was managing to stay out of the spotlight related to him doing time. He had a part time job as a yard porter that required him to sweep and clean the track and rake the yard every day. Since he began working for the yard officers, he never missed a day’s work. In fact, he often volunteered to work his days off to get out of the dorm and stay out of trouble since most of the illicit conduct was inside out of sight of the officers.
For the past nine months he managed to stay out of trouble and keep his nose clean. The officers, recognizing a premature bias on their part with early impressions of him being a troublemaker when he shaved his head, have noticed a lot of positive things happening around Cyrus including those he associated with. It was his positivity and optimism that the officers liked and offered him a job in the corrections industries area on the back lot of the prison where only a few prisoners are cleared to go and work.
The job details were simple storm windows assemble work that was being contracted to a window maker who had huge contracts with many home builders. The job was simple but hard to get. There was a waiting list and you had to be recommended to be on that list. The vendor employed 50 workers, seven days a week and all had to be free of misconduct and doing at least five years left to serve. The logic for such criteria was simply explained as those who were short and fewer than five years were subject to being moved around and would interrupt the productivity of the workplace if they had to retrain persons every time there was a transfer. This way, the crew would be steady and the output would be smooth and not interrupted making the vendor profits. The job was easy to do. Cyrus would be in charge of assembling the window frame out of 4 separate metal pieces of aluminum press the joints together by using a press machine with preset pressure and tightness. Then once completed putting each frame together, he would lay it on a conveyor belt where the screen or glass would be inserted by another worker pressing the frame with pressure and sealing the tightness of the product. Then another person would stack the windows that were completed after inspections and bundle them up in ties of 25 each.
This job was done at five other work stations and was a fast and efficient assembly line easy to maintain and low maintenance. The workers didn’t need any other tools to do the job as those tools required were attached by a cable on every work station and inspected hourly for condition of tool and presence and secured. The pay was better than being a yard porter as Cyrus was getting .50 cents an hour compared to the .05 cents an hour as a porter. The bundles would be put on a pallet and a forklift would take the pallet, 5 stacks high of bundles and bubble wrapped tightly for security and storage. Once inspected, the forklift operator would take them to the loading dock where they would be loaded into semi-trucks parked there to be loaded and delivered the next day to a pre-designated customer. This process would be repeated until each contract was filled and deliveries were made.
The storm window plant was approximately 50 yards from the main kitchen also located on the backlot for security reasons. There were 2 high fences around the kitchen loading dock that controlled access to and from the outside gates in the back of the facility. Needless to say, working back there on the backlot was a special assignment that required special procedures. The security was tight and the awareness levels were high to prevent unauthorized entries to the backlot that could facilitate an escape if nobody was seen being back there at certain times.
Although the job was monotonous and repetitive in nature the fact that they spent the entire day back there away from the dorms was a good thing for Cyrus and the other workers. There was plenty of time in the evening to clean up around the bunk and keep his area in order as he was settled in and not really a big collector of property other than what he needed and personal hygiene items.
A little over a year passed since his conviction and Cyrus was getting a visit about every other month by his parents. They were glad to see him do so well and stopped worrying about him as much as they did in the beginning especially after that horrific bus ride incident that caused a major disruption in Cyrus’s life. His work record was good and every now and then he was given a chance to drive the forklift when the other worker had a medical appointment of had a medical lay-in for the day for medical reasons. Cyrus, healthy as a horse hardly ever felt under the weather and came to work daily. On this job he could not volunteer to work there on his days off as the security was tight and only those on the work roster were allowed to come through the workgate as scheduled. The security process was stringent and took time. The first thing they had to do every morning was to report to the work gate in full orange jumpsuits and ID card visible on the left front breast pocket.
Then the officer would check the ID card against the face of the person wearing it and then check off the name on the work roster to show present and ready for work. This step was repeated for every worker that showed up for work every morning. Since the officers were regularly assigned to the workgate they got to know every prisoner that worked there and it would be difficult to slip by and enter without authority to do so. Then once they cleared the workgate they sat down in this chain link enclosure that had a roof over it and two long benches to sit on. When told to enter the first door, an officer would tell them to take a cubicle and remove all their clothing down to their socks. They were stripped naked but were allowed to keep their socks on because the ground was cold and concrete with no mat to stand on.
Once there were checked for contraband or weapons, another officer checked their jumpsuits to make sure they weren’t smuggling anything in to the workplace such as cigarettes, matches, food, books etc. redressing and clearing the metal detector, they were again held in another chain link enclosure that would hold them all until all workers were cleared and declared ready for work. The entire process took about 40 minutes at the most if there were 2 officers present. A third officer would stand on the outside between the two enclosures to make sure that nothing was passed or thrown out of the two enclosures before entering the middle part of the strip shack.
This detail was the most intense part of the job as the 3 officers, Jones, Hook and Curtis were seasoned officers experienced in this detail and totaling about twenty five years of experience between the three of them. Their professionalism and attention to detail kept the prisoners honest and prevented unnecessary head games in the process. Each of the three would take turns in their duties and worked well as a team that had shown good spirit and excellent work ethics to make the work detail a better place to be during the day.
The detail worked 6 hours a day. They started at 7 in the morning and were done by 2 in the afternoon. Each day their food would be carted in from the kitchen loading dock in a hot cart or sack lunches for some other days. They were not allowed to go any further than 10 feet from the loading dock unless they were under escort or driving the forklift in the backlot loading the trucks. The officers would rotate the workers on pushing the carts from the kitchen to the plant and vice versa to return the carts to the kitchen. It was a routine well recognized to be necessary for the carts to be delivered and taken back every day.
In addition to the 3 officers, there were 2 plant supervisors inside the assembly office or floor. They assisted in the supervision of the prison laborers and assisted with maintenance and repair issues when required. The officers conducted counts and inspected the tools every hour to make sure all was accounted for and in working condition. All together there was 1 supervisor for every 10 workers. This was a very safe and acceptable ratio for prison standards in such a work project and location of the plant.
On one particular day, Officer Jones was sick and another officer took his place. This caused a temporary interruption earlier in the morning but all went well after the work crew got started. About a half an hour before the food card had to be picked up for lunch, Officer Hook said he wasn’t feeling well and ask Officer Smith, the replacement officer to take a prisoner to the chow hall to pick up the food cart and bring it to the plant loading dock for lunch. Smith, a rookie didn’t hesitate and called the kitchen to tell them how many lunches they had to pack in the cart for lunch. They told him it would be ready in about 20 minutes so Officer Smith pointed to Cyrus Grossman and yelled out “hey Ranger, you got the food cart, be ready to go in 10.” Securing his work station he went to the loading dock to meet Officer Smith.
At the same time, the food truck showed up at the North Gate where another office, Officer Mendoza, worked and was checking the food truck in when she noticed an officer pushing a cart that had a large cardboard box wrapped with bubble wrap around it and another smaller box coming from the corrections industries area and heading for the kitchen area. Mendoza didn’t recognize the officer pushing the cart as he had his head down and wearing a baseball cap that concealed his face. She noticed that the officer was wearing a white shirt and blue pants but that the shirt was very baggy and the pants were too large to fit.
Simultaneously to the truck pulling up, another officer came walking through the gates that were still open to allow the food truck out and the officer watching both of them noticed that the second officer did not swipe his ID card as he entered the area. Mendoza yelled at the officer to go back and swipe the ID card as the second officer yelled at her “sorry, I forgot, thanks for reminding me” and went back to swipe the card. In the meantime, the other officer dressed in an oversized shirt and oversized pants disappeared from her view as she assumed he continued pushing the cart with the large box wrapped and the small box on the cart all the way to the kitchen loading dock without any problems.
About that time, Officer Smith came over walking towards Mendoza, the gate officer and was asked by her if he recognized the officer pushing the cart earlier towards the kitchen loading dock. Smith, new and not familiar with everybody back there said he didn’t and that he was on his way to pick up the food cart at the kitchen. The gate officer, concerned about the officer in the oversized uniform called her supervisor and asked for a telephone extension to call him. Getting his number, this resulted in Mendoza returning back to her control center and dialing the telephone while telling him on her radio he needed to report to the North gate for further information. While on the telephone, Officer Mendoza was immediately assaulted by the officer dressed in the oversized shirt and pants and another smaller man that came out of the small box that was on the cart. After a brief struggle she was knocked unconscious.
At this point, a Code 3 [all call emergency] was called and every officer on duty and available responded to the North gate area. The truck was still there and the two men, one dressed in uniform and the smaller in orange were trying to start the food truck to escape through the gate. At about this time, a white car pulled up from the perimeter road and stopped. The perimeter officer jumped out of the car that was parked diagonally to block the truck from leaving and, lifted his shotgun to his shoulder and aimed, firing a round into the windshield where the tall man was sitting behind the steering wheel. The round didn’t hit the man but the escape attempt was aborted and both men were put into handcuffs and placed on the ground.
Immediately after the two men were restrained, the assistant warden arrived and ordered a welfare check on all employees as the whereabouts of the uniform the tall man was wearing was suspected to belong to someone who was working on the backlot earlier that morning. Mendoza was found lying on the floor behind her work station, inside her control center. Somehow, with all the distractions on the backlot, they had managed to get closer to Officer Mendoza and get into the control center that controlled the gates and keys to the vehicle sitting there in between the gates still open to allow the other officer to pass. It was a risky plan but it seemed to have worked at the time except for Officer Mendoza’s vigilance on the oversized clothing on the officer pushing the cart that came from the storm window plant.
Something the two men that attempted to escape didn’t know was that when they took the keys away from Officer Mendoza, they concentrated on getting the truck keys and didn’t realize that there was a key on her key ring that opened up a weapons box that contained a loaded sidearm in cases of emergency.
Cyrus, lying on the ground with his hands over his head was still as he watched the entire scene unfold in front of his very own eyes. Smith ordered Cyrus back up on his feet and took him swiftly back to the plant where he met the two plant supervisors and Officer Curtis was also standing there making sure all his prisoners were accounted for. Doing an emergency count it was discovered the two men that attempted to escape were workers from the storm window plant and that Officer Hook was still missing. The search for Officer Hook was frantic as there was chaos on the backlot and everybody was busy searching every part of the backlot for Officer Hook.
Then suddenly it occurred to the shift supervisor that the tall man captured with the little man had a radio and that radio was checked out to Officer Hook. Urgently, they rushed over to the large box wrapped up in shrink wrapping. Fanatically, they began to un-wrap the bubble wrap on the large box still on the cart and when the large box was opened, there was the absent body of Officer Hook in plain sight and placed inside that box laying in a fetal position, motionless. He was laying there in his underwear, soaked with blood, wearing only socks. He had a large cut on his head as the shrink wrap was being removed from his head. It was apparent that his head had been bludgeoned with some sharp instrument and when unconscious he was wrapped up with more bubble wrap suffocating him. Once his head was un-wrapped other officers began chest compressions as an oxygen mask was placed on Officer’s Hook face to give him air. Working hard on the CPR, there was no response from Officer Hook as the resuscitation efforts became futile and there were no vitals found on Officer Hook by medical responders from the facility.
Someone had already called 911 for this emergency but when the paramedics arrived, they pronounced Officer Hook dead on the scene. In the meantime, another ambulance arrived to treat Officer Mendoza who had a cut above her right eye, swollen lips upper and lower and a big knot on the back of her head where she was struck with something hard that caused her to pass out. In the meantime, the perimeter was secured by more white cars as well as emergency vehicles from the highway patrol, the sheriff department and the local police agency. A helicopter hovering above took the necessary surveillance at the time and the entire prison facility was locked down for the upcoming investigation.