CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - It wasn't a fire that caused fire alarms and a sprinkler system to go off inside the Carter County Jail Thursday night, and the sheriff's department believes an inmate was responsible.
What's interesting, we've learned, this is the second time an inmate has broken a sprinkler head in the new jail.
It's always under lock and key at the new Carter County Jail, but trouble always seems to be lurking. "[The inmate] took his shirt, slung it over the sprinkler head and jerked real hard," said Captain Thomas Smith with the Carter County Sheriff's Department.
It's believed an unhappy inmate inside cell D-13 broke that sprinkler head. Imagine about three inches of standing water in a nearby hallway; Captain Thomas says a whopping 500 gallons of water was flooding.
To stop it, they were using blankets and towels. "We had some of the inmates actually help us in the cleanup process," added Captain Smith.
Cleanup took about three hours. During that time inmates were moved to a nearby recreation room.
News 5 learned that trouble could lead to felony vandalism charges for that inmate, but it could cost him even more. "We will request through the court that he reimburse the county for any expenditures, cleaning up water, time that we had to hold over workers," added Captain Smith.
Which residents hope happen. "As long as he has to pay it back in a short time frame," said Tracie Kellicut, a Carter County resident.
News 5 checked with the County Finance Director and learned usually when an inmate owes the county money, the Finance Department might see that money tomorrow, or not at all.
Some residents are angry this happened at a $26 million jail. "Especially since it's a new, a nice new facility, and they're [inmates] just being destructive and that's costly to everyone," said Kellicut.
The inmate responsible has been identified as 41-year-old Harry Head of Elizabethton.
Captain Smith estimates the total cost of cleanup at about $1,000. News 5 learned the sprinklers inside jail cells are not connected, so no other sprinklers went off inside the jail Thursday night.