BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – It was a confusing and worrisome day for many in Blountville after three inmates escaped from the Sullivan County Jail.
Some Sullivan County Schools parents said initial messages from the school system were vague and didn’t offer any reason as to why schools were in secure protocol.
Tobias Carr, Johnny Brown and Timothy Sarver escaped through the jail’s HVAC system sometime Friday morning. Carr had been indicted on second-degree murder charges.
Residents said Blountville is usually quiet, which is why they were unnerved when they heard about the escape.
Gregory Smith lives on Masengill Road, which runs right behind the jail.
“With some of the charges that I heard some of them had, you would think that they would be keeping an eye on them, and they wouldn’t be able to escape, especially the way they did,” Smith said. “It’s very concerning to me.”
Courtney Greer also lives near the jail. Once she got word of the escape, she took precautions.
“I live less than a mile down the road and didn’t know anything was going on, and immediately locked the doors, made sure that we were safe at the house,” Greer said.
Both Greer and Smith said they were first notified of the situation by a Sullivan County Schools phone call that announced schools were in a “secure.”
“Due to the action of the Sullivan County Sheriffs Office in announcing a reverse 911, all Sullivan County Schools are now in a secure,” Superintendent Evelyn Rafalowski said in the second call sent out to parents.
The secure protocol meant doors at school were locked but it was business as usual inside.
Greer was not happy with the way that information reached her. She said the first phone call from the school district reached her at 10:31 a.m. She said it did not elaborate on what the situation was.
“There was no information as to what was going on. It was just a call that said that the schools were on a soft lockdown,” Greer said.
A second call came in at 10:33, according to Greer’s voicemail. That call said that due to the automated alert sent out by the Sullivan County Sheriffs Office, schools were in a secure protocol.
Greer said she was not signed up for the service and did not receive the emergency alert.
“I was not aware that I had to sign up to receive those,” Greer said. “Make people more aware of how to sign up for that, so they know ahead of time.”
A third call from the school gave parents the option to pick up students from school instead of taking the bus. It also announced that additional deputies would be stationed during pick-up.
“Mine normally ride the bus, I wasn’t really feeling too safe about that,” Smith said. “My mom went and actually picked them up because it’s one thing to have the extra security at the school, but when you’re on the bus you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
All three inmates are now on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list.
The U.S. Marshalls have offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the capture of each escaped inmate. TBI is also offering an additional $2,500 for each inmate.