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Richmonders angry city did not send alert about escaped inmate: 'Totally unacceptable'

Posted at 12:21 PM, Aug 28, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- When Kim Roberts headed out for a walk around 7 a.m. on Saturday Aug. 12, she thought the helicopter and low flying plane buzzing above were there to protect a visiting elected official.

"I had no idea what was going on," Roberts said.

But shortly before nine, she learned from a Henrico resident that an inmate had escaped from St. Mary's Hospital, which is located just a mile away from her.

"Some lady said, 'Oh, I live in Henrico, we all got a thing.' I'm like, 'What? Why didn't we get anything?'" Roberts recalled. "I was so mad."

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Henrico alerted its citizens who live near St. Mary's using a reverse 911 alert at 8:37 a.m., but Richmond, where Roberts lives, did not.

That's despite the fact that the inmate broke into a Richmond man's home and stole money, credit cards and keys.

The victim's home is just two blocks down from Roberts.

"Richmond has really done nothing," Roberts said. "The citizens are frustrated and angry. We pay taxes."

Ryland Salsbury, who lives near Roberts and the man whose home was broken into, shares her concerns.

"My first thought was why hasn't Richmond said anything? We're not far from St. Mary's. We are a mile away. Our neighbors are all elderly and vulnerable," Salsbury said.

Naseem Roulack Search

Richmond Police told CBS 6 they did not send out an alert because of the "wide dispersal of information to the public by the lead agencies."

Those lead agencies, according to RPD, were the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Virginia State Police, and Henrico Police.

The Virginia DOC and VSP said they do not have alert systems.

Salsbury said his attempts to find out why police were in his neighborhood early that morning were unsuccessful.

"We checked local news, we checked Virginia statewide incidents and didn't see anything going on," Salsbury said. "If we are going to have Richmond Police, they should be protecting Richmond citizens. We are not far from St. Mary's and that inmate escaped into Richmond. It should be on Richmond Police to alert the citizens as to what is going on."

Naseem Roulack  | Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Henrico County
Naseem Roulack | Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Henrico County

CBS 6 asked Mayor Levar Stoney spokesperson Gianni Snidle for his response to citizens about the lack of an alert, but he never replied.
City Council President Mike Jones said he had no comment when asked for an interview on the topic.

And, City Councilmember Andreas Addison (1st district), who represents citizens who live around St. Mary's on City Council, originally agreed to do an interview, but then never responded to set up a time and place to meet.

"That is totally unacceptable to disregard their citizens. What are they here for? The police, the city council members, the mayor, I don't get it," Kim Roberts said when she heard about our difficulty getting city officials to talk to us.

"No, it's not acceptable at all. Certainly we have an emergency agency that should be handling this kind of thing. This communication is broken down, and it shouldn't be happening in this day and age," Salsbury said when we told him about the difficulty we had in getting a response from city leaders.

Both Roberts and Salsbury said the city needs to revamp how it communicates with citizens in emergencies.

Roberts said she hopes Richmond will hold a town hall meeting to hear from citizens.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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