As an ultra-security inmate, Giovanni Herrin, 19, will be required to wear leg irons and a belly chain – with his hands chained to his waist – any time he is removed from his cell.
King County prosecutors say murder suspect Giovanni Herrin fabricated three medical emergencies over two days in early July as part of an ongoing plan to escape custody.
Herrin, 19, succeeded on his third attempt, but he managed to run only a half-mile from the emergency-room entrance at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center before he was shot in the shoulder by a King County jail guard and returned to the hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound.
Herrin’s brief bid for freedom prompted officials with the King County Department of Adult & Juvenile Detention (DAJD) to increase his security status, elevating him from maximum security to ultra security, court records show.
Charged with first-degree murder domestic violence and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm for allegedly shooting his 18-year-old girlfriend in the head in a Kent park on June 16, Herrin has since been charged with second-degree escape. He’s accused of somehow slipping out of ankle and leg restraints attached to a gurney, then evading a guard who was momentarily distracted just after 10 a.m. on July 4, charging papers say.
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Because the fatal shooting of Karyme Barreto-Sabalza occurred in South King County, Herrin originally was housed at the Maleng Regional Justice Center, where his criminal case was filed in the courthouse adjacent to the jail.
But after his release from Harborview on July 5, Herrin was moved to the King County Jail in downtown Seattle, which is the county’s only facility to house ultra-security inmates.
On Tuesday, a King County Superior Court judge granted a motion to move Herrin’s criminal cases to Seattle so that jail officers will not have to transport him to Kent each time he has a court hearing. Also Tuesday, Herrin entered not-guilty pleas to the murder, firearm and escape charges, court records show.
“DAJD has significant safety concerns with transporting the defendant on public roadways,” Deputy Prosecutor Pascal Herzer wrote in the motion requesting the change to Herrin’s case designation.
Herzer’s motion also notes Herrin had been released from custody a week before Barreto-Sabalza was killed. In 2015, the parents of another girl Herrin previously dated sought a stalking protection order against him after they claimed Herrin threatened to kill the girl, her family and himself if she ever left him, the motion says.
Capt. Michael Taylor, a shift commander at the King County Jail, explained inmates are given one of five security designations, based on the charges against them and other variables. The five designations, in ascending order, are minimum, medium, close, maximum and ultra.
Maximum-security inmates dress in red jail uniforms, while ultra-security inmates, who are housed in individual cells, wear white, Taylor said. Unlike other inmates who are handcuffed behind their backs, ultra-security inmates wear leg irons and belly chains – with their hands chained to their waists – any time they are removed from their cells.
It allows inmates to use their hands to sign court documents, feed themselves or use the restroom without being unshackled, he said.
“This guy made an escape attempt, which is always an impetus for somebody to gain that status,” Taylor said of Herrin’s ultra-security designation, which requires additional security protocols.
Every time an ultra-security inmate is removed from a cell, the inmate is required to be escorted by two officers and a sergeant, said Taylor, noting the requirement for a sergeant’s presence does not exist for maximum-security inmates.
While most inmates can be transported with other inmates on buses between the jail facilities in Seattle and Kent, ultra-security inmates are transported by themselves with additional staff present, Taylor said.
“From a logistical standpoint, it just takes more resources,” he said.
Herrin was booked into the Regional Justice Center on June 20, four days after he is accused of shooting Barreto-Sabalza once in the head at close range after luring her into Kent’s Salt Air Vista Park, court records show.
On July 3, Herrin told jail staff he wanted to be evaluated by a doctor for an unknown reason and was taken to Harborview’s emergency room, then returned to the Regional Justice Center, the charges in the escape case say.
At 12:30 a.m. the next day, Herrin complained of chest pains and told jail staff he had ingested 60 tablets of an unknown medication, which he had been allowed to possess while in custody, the charges say. He was evaluated at Valley Medical Center in Renton, then was transported to the King County Jail in Seattle.
Later that same day, Herrin told jail staff “he had located an unknown prescribed narcotic and had ingested an unknown amount of the narcotic,” charging papers say. He again was taken to Harborview’s emergency room.
Herrin was restrained on a gurney but somehow escaped after one jail officer left to use the restroom and a second officer was distracted for 10 to 15 seconds.
Herrin ran through an exit door, down a flight of stairs and exited the hospital on the sally port, on the north side of Harborview along Jefferson Street. Dressed in his red inmate clothing and carrying a white blanket, Herrin ran past two emergency medical technicians (EMTs), the charges say. The EMTs ran into the hospital and alerted two jail officers about the escape.
Those two officers and one of the EMTs pursued Herrin, who at one point peeled off his jail shirt and wrapped the blanket around himself in an apparent attempt to change his appearance, charging papers say.
Herrin jumped into the back seat of a Lyft car stopped at a red light at Yesler Way and Eighth Avenue, and he repeatedly slapped the driver in the back of the head while yelling at him to drive, the charges say.
Seeing the officers running toward his car with guns drawn, the driver threw his body down across the front seat, and Herrin then got out of the car and was shot in the shoulder by one of the officers, charging papers say.