UPDATE @ 2 p.m. Dec. 5
A 21-year-old Montgomery County Jail inmate was identified Thursday as the suspect who pepper-sprayed 10 fellow inmates over the weekend, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
Maxamillion Z. Thomas faces 10 counts of misdemeanor assault and 10 counts of falsification, Chief Deputy Daryl Wilson said.
He is jailed for violating a protection order.
Thomas initially told authorities a corrections officer gave him the pepper spray — a story he later recanted. He later told investigators the pepper spray was taken from a deputy’s belt. An administrative investigation is underway to determine how this happened, Wilson said.
The deputy reported his pepper spray missing after the pepper-spray incident on Sunday.
Six inmates were reported to have been pepper-sprayed, but Wilson said Thursday that 10 inmates were sprayed.
Taking the pepper spray appears to have been a crime of opportunity, Wilson said.
However, it now appears that some of the inmates may have helped to plan the pepper-spraying incident and knew they’d be sprayed, Wilson said, possibly to gain attention.
FIRST REPORT, Dec. 2:
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office is looking into how a county jail inmate was able to get a canister of pepper-spray he used on six other inmates Sunday night.
The criminal investigation involves a charge of theft of the pepper-spray device.
The internal investigation will involve determining how the inmate came into possession of the canister, how long he had it and whether someone helped him get it.
The incident occurred in seconds, Jail Commander and Sheriff's Maj. Jeremy Roy told News Center 7's Mike Campbell on Monday, but the aftermath developed over several hours as jail officers had to decontaminate the inmates, who were in single cells, one by one.
"We're not going to rule anything out," Roy said. "We're going to look at everything to see what took place."
Corrections officers do not carry pepper-spray canisters, but jail sergeants as supervisors, do carry them. Other deputies who have duties associated with the jail, such as monitoring inmates in the courtroom or transporting inmates to and from the courtroom, carry them also.
The inmate who committed the crimes is not being identified publicly, Roy said, because the investigation is ongoing.
Roy confirmed that six inmates were exposed to the pepper-spray on a fourth-floor administrative segregation unit where inmates are housed one to a cell.
"It appears [the accused inmate] walked down a hallway, emptied the canister as he did a brisk walk down the hallway," Roy said.
"We had to find a way to pull these guys out, one by one, make sure they were decontaminated one by one, go in and strip their clothing and bedding, switch it all out."
Friends of one inmate who was exposed to the gas said he was frustrated and upset.
"[The inmate] is upset this could happen to him when he was simply sitting in his cell," the inmate's close family friend, Briana Kammer, said.
"They can't leave their cell at all. They're just stuck there until they could take them one by one to shower them," Kammer said.
News Center 7 will update this developing report as more information about the investigation is released.