By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
When a Powder River inmate walked away from a work crew in the Sumpter area during a lunch break Thursday, a plan to alert county residents was given a trial run.
Randall Lamarr, 42, who was serving a five-year sentence from Columbia County for first-degree burglary, was last seen at 11:35 a.m. and was reported missing at 12:05 p.m., according to Mary Calloway, public information officer for the Powder River Correctional Facility.
As of deadline Friday, he remained at large.
Plans to notify 14 separate neighborhoods in rural Baker County about the escape were put into action sooner than expected, according to Jan Kerns, a member of the Prison Advisory Board and chairman of the group organizing the community notification process.
We got a really good test of our network yesterday, she said Friday morning.
Kerns said the notification plan is the first of its kind in Oregon and possibly the nation.
The system uses telephone calling and email to transmit information to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, she said. White flags bearing the letter E, which stands for escape, also will be placed in certain areas to alert residents that a prisoner is at large in the community.
The Baker School District notified parents of Sumpter-area students Thursday afternoon and offered them the option of picking their children up in Baker City if they were concerned about them riding the bus home. Photographs were distributed throughout the county via computer.
The notification process had been tested a month ago and another test was scheduled next week, but Thursdays escape preempted that plan.
We dont know where were going to go from here, Kerns said. The plan looks great on paper, but some glitches were discovered Thursday and refinements will be made, she added.
The notification plan was developed to address a community concern from rural residents, she said.
We identified something that is a real community concern and we went to work on it, she said. We need to develop a better way of getting information out to the public that there has been an escape.
A public education campaign is scheduled to help inform county residents about how the notification process works and how they can help with the effort, she said.
The effort in no way encourages anyone to act as a vigilante in apprehending escapees, Kerns emphasized.
Community residents instead are being asked to keep alert to anything unusual in their neighborhoods and to call police with any information they might have, she said.
Lamarr walked away from a 10-person crew that was piling slash in the Rhody Road area off Huckleberry Loop south of Sumpter, Calloway said. Workers also were gathering firewood for the prisons Native American sweat lodge.
He is 5 feet 11 inches tall with graying short brown hair. The white male has blue eyes and weighs 170 pounds.
He was last seen wearing a prison-issued, long-sleeved blue shirt and blue jeans, both bearing Department of Corrections logos, and work boots.
Although Lamarr is not considered a dangerous offender, people should exercise extreme caution if they see him, Calloway said. Anyone with information about Lamarr is asked to call 911 immediately.
He had been in the custody of the Department of Corrections since February 1996 and came to Powder River on Feb. 28 of this year, Calloway said.