Now that the Brooklyn House of Detention at 275 Atlantic Ave. is about to swing back into full operation after being closed /barely operational for years, (see yesterday's post) we thought it'd be fun to take a walk back in time to the exciting days of yesteryear -- to revisit notorious escapes from the Big House:
- Let's start with society horse-trainer, inn-owner, embezzler and sensational murderer Buddy Jacobson, who escaped from the Brooklyn House of Detention in 1980. The escape was orchestrated by Buddy and carried out by his innkeeper "Tony Two-Suits," a not-very-bright fellow who was wearing two suits into the jail when he visited Buddy -- but only one when Buddy left him behind in his cell. After he escaped, Time Magazine wrote: "The Fox Is On the Run." Full story here and here.
- Then there was Edward White, 27 years old, a vicious murderer who was serving a 25- to 50-year sentence when he escaped in 1991, becoming one of the city's most wanted fugitives. Police re-captured him by accident when they knocked on the door of a Brooklyn apartment and he answered wearing only a bathrobe. (Full story in the NY Times.)
- Convicted of sniping a police station, Black Liberationist Kuwasi Balagoon and a fellow traveler escaped from the Brooklyn House of Detention in the early 70s. An outlaw, he escaped prison twice and led units in the "expropriation" of banks, including the infamous Nyack armored car heist in 1983 (an incident that served as a basis for the film Dead Presidents). He also identified as a queer anarchist. More here.
- Joseph James, a Brooklyn House of Detention inmate awaiting trial on robbery and murder charges, mortally wounded an unarmed correction officer, George Motchan during a "precisely planned escape." Accomplices hid a gun in a Kings County Hospital clinic bathroom and had a car waiting with its motor running at the nearby exit. James-- handcuffed to Motchan for a dental visit -- shot him while in the bathroom. Full details here.
- Henry Brown escaped in a similar manner. In 1973 he was sent under guard to the Kings County Hospital for treatment of an ulcer. His handcuffs were removed for the X-ray. After he returned to the dressing booth, guards heard a door slam. The booth was empty. More here.
- Melvin Kearney (aka Rema Olugbala), indicted in a holdup with infamous Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur, died in 1975 or 76 from an eight-floor fall while trying to escape from the Brooklyn House of Detention.
In 1979 Shakur herself escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey and is presently enjoying political asylum in Cuba. The FBI has placed a $1 million bounty on her head. Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, has called for the bounty to be rescinded.
- In 1974, several prisoners overpowered their guards and tried to scale a fence at the Brooklyn House of Detention. A Black Liberation Army prisoner was shot and recaptured. More here.
- In 1970 hundreds of prisoners rioted at the jail, demanding more humane treatment and taking 26 hostages -- as crowds outside cheered them on. No one escaped, but a "number of people" were arrested for throwing missiles from rooftops at police who surrounded the prison. Those were the days! More here.
As the jail prepares to reopen, community leaders today are no so concerned about jailbreaks and riots, but rather about quality of life issues like parking. Democratic District Leader Jo Anne Simon told the Brooklyn Eagle that neighbors were worried about corrections officer parking on the sidewalk on State Street and parking problems caused by court officers, attorneys and others connected with the system.
Photo by MK Metz: The Brooklyn House of Detention has been officially renamed the Brooklyn Detention Complex.
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