Nashville, TN – A convicted felon pretended to be a construction worker in order to plant loaded weapons and cause $2 million in damages to Nashville’s new 726-bed detention center, according to Nashville-Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall.
“Understand, this plan went far beyond vandalism,” Sheriff Hall said during a press conference on Wednesday. “Ultimately, it included planting various tools, weapons and security equipment throughout this facility – all designed to assist in a massive escape plan.”
Convicted felon Alex Friedmann, a self-described criminal justice advocate, was charged with felony vandalism on Tuesday, Sheriff Hall told reporters.
He was subsequently moved to a Tennessee Department of Correction prison, where he is being held on $2.5 million bond.
On Jan. 4, Friedmann was arrested on charges of attempted burglary, tampering with evidence, and possession of burglary tools, after he disguised himself as a construction worker to get inside the newly-built Nashville Downtown Detention Center, Sheriff Hall said.
Investigators found him in possession of a cooler that contained bolt cutters, a key chit, and schematics for the detention facility, the Tennessean reported.
“Upon reviewing video surveillance, an individual dressed like a construction worker wearing a yellow vest and dust mask and matching the description of Friedmann was seen spray painting around the key control room door,” the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) said in a press release at the time.
In the weeks that followed, investigators discovered that Friedmann “had developed and implemented an extremely deliberate” plan over the course of several months, Sheriff Hall told reporters on Wednesday.
Sheriff Hall described the felon’s plot as “evil,” and said that investigators found loaded firearms and additional ammunition that he had planted throughout the inside of the detention center.
The suspect hid the weapons long before DCSO moved into the building.
“What disturbed me most is not that this was about an escape, it was also about loss of life,” he explained. “Men and women, like these standing behind me, face extreme challenges in this line of work every day. But to compromise their environment in such a way to put their lives in imminent danger is beyond comprehension.”
Sheriff Hall noted that the employees who work inside the detention center facility are unarmed.
Not only did Friedmann’s plot place the sheriff’s office personnel at risk, it also placed inmates and visitors at risk.
“You cannot have a loaded weapon inside a facility like this unless you have one intent for that weapon,” Sheriff Hall said.
Essentially everything Friedman did inside the detention center was captured by security cameras.
“We’ve watched hundreds of hours of video and identified areas that we believe were compromised,” Sheriff Hall explained. “I’m not confident we’ve found everything we need…You’ll be fascinated to understand what all was going on once it comes out.”
Due to the “unprecedented nature” of Friedmann’s crimes, the new detention facility will not be opened in April as previously intended, the sheriff said.
Investigators are continuing to sweep the building, and will need additional equipment in order to complete that task.
“We’re not going to work here until we’re comfortable,” Sheriff Hall said.
Investigators are also looking at other individuals “of interest,” and have not ruled out the possibility that Friedmann may have been working with others, he added.
This incident “will forever change how correctional facilities are built,” Sheriff Hall told reporters.
He also praised the employees working inside the facility for stopping Friedmann before he could carry out his plan.
“Had this arrest not occurred, this press conference could be a totally different situation,” Sheriff Hall said.
The facility has been locked down, and there are many new safety measures that will be enacted moving forward.
The costs associated with Friedmann’s offenses are currently hovering around $2 million, but that figure is expected to “increase significantly,” he added.
Sheriff Hall said that he met with Friedmann in the past to discuss Friedmann’s concerns about a private prison in the area.
“He was a leading advocate for anti-privatization, so he met with me and others on my team over the last year in my office,” the sheriff told reporters, adding that the new detention facility Friedmann later broke into “never came up.”
“We weren’t discussing this building,” he reiterated. “There was never any involvement at all in our meetings, but it is true that while some of this was going on, we had some engagement with him.”
A fundraising campaign established to help raise money for Friedmann’s defense has amassed over $6,000 in donations so far.
Friedmann set up the page while out on bond following his initial arrest, according to the website.