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Records: Inmates knew about inmate’s planned escape

Associated Press

St. Joseph — Berrien County sheriff deputies were unaware of an inmate’s plan to escape from a local courthouse in an incident that led to a deadly shooting in July, though his fellow inmates did know about the plan.

Statements this month from other inmates and witnesses to the shootings were obtained by The Herald Palladium through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Investigators allege inmate Larry Gordon wrestled a gun away from a court deputy on July 11, killed two court officers and wounded the deputy before he was fatally shot by other officers. A civilian held hostage by Gordon was also wounded.

Multiple inmates testified that they knew Gordon was planning an escape. One inmate, Michael Peffley, initially told a detective he warned jail staff about Gordon’s plans, but Peffley later said he didn’t talk to jail staff because he assumed they wouldn’t listen to him, according to court records.

Peffley said Gordon gave him a note informing him of the escape. He said Gordon’s note asked him to contact drug dealers to whom Gordon owed money.

Gordon’s attorney, Joseph Fletcher, told detectives Gordon was highly agitated before the shooting when learning he probably wouldn’t receive a light sentence on numerous felony charges in exchange for providing information on other crimes.

Sheriff Paul Baily said there was no sign Gordon was an extra security risk or that additional safety measures were necessary. The sheriff’s office said it has added deputies at the courthouse, so inmates will be escorted by two officers instead of one.