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Three Jail Inmates Hold Fourth Prisoner Hostage

March 31, 1986

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Three inmates demanding to be flown to Libya held a fourth prisoner hostage for five hours Sunday, wounding him with a homemade glass spear, but the hostage may have been in on the escape plot, authorities said.

″We think this hostage situation might have been part of the whole scam,″ Raul Russi, assistant superintendent at Erie County Holding Center, said of the fourth inmate, who suffered a superficial stab wound.

The standoff began shortly after 2 a.m. when three inmates tied a fourth man to cell bars with torn rags and held a spear, made with a piece of glass from a television set, to his back, authorities said.

The inmates spoke to administrators about jail conditions, then demanded to see Buffalo Common Council President George Arthur. When Arthur arrived, the inmates demanded a plane to Libya. They also demanded that television crews be allowed in, and Sheriff Thomas Higgins summoned members of the local media.

When Higgins refused the inmates’ demand for a plane to Libya, one of the prisoners, identified as Herman Cruz, cut the back of the hostage from his tailbone to the shoulder blade and threatened to kill him if the demands were not met, according to the sheriff’s office.

At that point, Higgins told Sgt. Richard Dobson to shoot any inmate who made a threatening move, and officers in riot gear rushed in and freed hostage Robert Jordan, 29, and returned the other inmates to their cells.

Russi said a preliminary investigation indicates inmate Donald Simmons, 20, masterminded the attempted escape. Simmons was recently sentenced to 25 to 75 years for rape, robbery and attempted murder.

″I think Simmons had a very serious plan to get out of here,″ said Russi, who added, ″it wasn’t elaborate, but they had a plan.″

Authorities said that in addition to Cruz, 28, and Simmons, inmates Ivan Veras, 21, was involved in the incident. Jordan and Veras were awaiting trial on robbery charges, and Cruz was awaiting sentencing for burglary and grand larceny.

Televised coverage of recent U.S. military clashes with Libya probably convinced the men they would have safe harbor there, Russi said.

″If you were going to want a place where the Americans can’t get you, where would you choose?″ he said.

An investigation into the incident was continuing, and Russi said a grand jury would consider possible indictments.

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