Kane County sheriff candidates disagree on Delnor hostage response

Four candidates seeking the Democratic and Republican nominations for Kane County sheriff March 20 have different views on the cause and response of a spring 2017 hostage situation at Delnor Hospital in which a nurse was raped and an escapee shot and killed.

Sheriff Don Kramer is seeking a second, four-year term and faces a challenge on the GOP side from Kevin Tindall, a former Sugar Grove Fire Protection District trustee and current sergeant at the sheriff's office.

Two other sheriff's office veterans - Lt. Willie Mayes Sr., who lost the 2014 general election to Kramer, and Sgt. Ron Hain - are competing for the Democratic nomination.

On May 13, 2017, an inmate who was being treated at the Geneva hospital for eating part of his jail-issued plastic sandal asked a guard to unshackle him to use the washroom. The inmate, Tywon Salters, 21, then took the guard's gun and took nurses hostage.

After several hours of negotiations, a SWAT team entered the hospital and shot Salters dead. A deputy was wounded, and several others later sued the sheriff's department, hospital and security firm, arguing their negligence allowed Salters to escape.

Tindall said he was on duty that day and he had to call a dispatcher to page an off-duty lieutenant in order to get approval for a SWAT team. Tindall said that policy hinges on an off-duty lieutenant checking their phone during a weekend, and more authority should be given to shift commanders. Fortunately, Tindall said, the lieutenant answered and authorized the SWAT team immediately.

"To me, that's valuable time that's wasted the could have cost the nurse her life," Tindall said, adding Kramer should have been at the scene but was not and the sheriff's office also failed for only having one guard for Salters. "You should always start with two (guards) for one inmate."

Kramer said he was "blindsided" by criticism from Tindall, saying Tindall never brought up his concerns in staff meetings even though he had "an obligation to improve things" and waited until the campaign for the Republican nomination began.

Kramer said he had just returned from a conference in San Antonio and had torn off his toenail. He considered going to an emergency room, had trouble walking and said "there is nothing I could have done at the scene but gotten in the way."

Kramer said he didn't want to look over officers' shoulders, deferred to the supervisors on duty and said the public information officer had experience talking to media members that day.

Kramer acknowledged a jail guard failed to do his duty and said a review of procedures and policies afterward was helpful.

"We can't go back and change anything that's already been done," Kramer said.

Hain credited the SWAT team for doing an "outstanding job" in freeing the nurse that day. Hain said if elected sheriff, he will have a tactical commander conduct threat assessments for area facilities such as hospitals and schools for quicker response times during crisis. Hain noted that Kramer did not reach out to the SWAT team member who was shot until four days later.

Hain and Mayes also agreed two guards were needed for Salters; Mayes also suggested the sheriff's office pick more senior and experienced guards for prisoners taken to the hospital.

"The policies and procedures already in place should have been followed," Mayes said, adding " ... I don't think we can ever make sure if never happens."

The two winners of the March 20 election will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

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Lt. Willie Mayes Sr.
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