The suspected killer of a gay Houston man led an escape from a juvenile detention facility late Sunday by overpowering and beating a guard and then freeing two other inmates before fleeing.
Alferis Coby (top image), 16, is facing trial on capital murder charges for allegedly gunning down a 22-year-old gay man in the parking of F Bar in Midtown on March 12. Coby and a second teen were allegedly trying to rob Juan Carlos Ramirez and steal his vehicle. The teens are also charged with shooting another man in the stomach during an attempted robbery on the same night.
Last month, a judge ordered Coby to stand trial as an adult in the homicide though he was 15 when it took place. That same judge, State District Judge Michael Schneider, said Sunday that Coby is “a dangerous kid.” Via the Houston Chronicle:
“I'm worried not only about what he is capable of, but his very demonstrated lack of empathy to other people,” said 315th State District Judge Michael Schneider, who certified Coby to stand trial as an adult in October. “I usually don't like to talk about kids in our juvenile system, but this is a dangerous kid. I am really worried he is out.”
Just after midnight on Sunday, Coby convinced an officer at the Harris County Juvenile Probation Center in downtown Houston to open his cell door after requesting some toiletries, according to Tom Brooks, executive director of the county's juvenile probation department. That’s when Coby allegedly overpowered the guard, beat him and took his keys and radio. Coby then freed two other 16-year-old inmates – including Jahrell West, who is charged with aggravated robbery and burglary.
Brooks told reporters during a briefing on Sunday that the escape was the first in the nine-year history of the facility. He said the facility operates with reduced staffing at night and that policy dictates that two guards must be present when a cell door is opened. That was not the case when Coby escaped, he said.
“We're very disturbed that they were able to get all the way out to the exit egress,” Brooks said. “I have no reason to believe there was any collaboration in this. I don't have all the information; my first thought on it would be somebody didn't do their job.”
Authorities with the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force are coordinating the search for Coby and the two other escaped teens, according to the Chronicle.
In October, Schneider’s ruling certifying Coby as an adult for trial detailed an extensive criminal background, including a November 2014 incident in which he was accused of shooting a man four times. A criminal psychologist said that Coby showed a high level of criminal sophistication and dangerousness.
Coby was arrested hours after allegedly killing Ramirez when police spotted him and an accomplice driving the victim’s car in southeast Houston.
The killing of Ramirez, and a handful of other violent incidents, sparked outrage among gay Houstonians. About 50 people rallied on March 13 to Take Back Montrose. And on March 22, Ramirez was memorialized during a packed event at F Bar with a crowd that included Mayor Annise Parker, Houston City Council member Richard Nguyen, state Sen. John Whitmire, and Harris County Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis, who is gay.
The outpouring of support for Ramirez helped raise $13,650 during a GoFundMe campaign to pay for funeral expenses.
UPDATE | The guard that Coby allegedly beat, 61-year-old Tom Keneaster, says the teen kep hitting him until he was unconscious, according to KHOU.
“He [Coby] wanted some toilet paper, so I brought him some toilet paper,” Keneaster remembered. “That's when he bucked the door and started pounding on me.”
Keneaster said even after he handed over his keys and cell phone, Coby continued wailing on him until he was out cold.