Dallas County Sheriff Investigates Loaded Gun in Jail

By Ray Villeda
|  Monday, Dec 30, 2013  |  Updated 6:59 PM CDT
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The Dallas County Sheriff's Office is investigating an incident where a loaded gun made it into a secure area of Lew Sterrett Jail on Dec. 12.

Ray Villeda, NBC 5 News

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office is investigating an incident where a loaded gun made it into a secure area of Lew Sterrett Jail on Dec. 12.

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An internal investigation is now underway at the Dallas County Sheriff's Office where officials say an inmate was able to bring a gun into a secured location at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center.

An offense report obtained by NBC 5 outlined the offense and said that on Dec. 12, 30-year-old Robert Merrill was brought in by a bounty hunter. There was some sort of altercation, according to the paperwork, and Merrill tried to run.

Merrill was captured and brought into the jail, but in the paperwork the deputy admitted he didn't search Merrill at that point.  Merrill was taken to the shakedown area, a secured location within the jail. Investigators believe it was there he threw the weapon, a fully loaded 9mm handgun, into the trash.

Surveillance video, the document said, showed Merrill dumping a knit cap into the trash. Merrill told investigators that was his cap, but denied having the gun.

It was found about an hour later by a fellow inmate doing sanitation detail.

Don Peritz, now with NBC 5, worked for more than three decades at the Dallas County Sheriff's Office and most recently as a senior sergeant in the traffic unit.

"What makes this extremely dangerous in this particular situation is that the suspect that brought this weapon into the jail is now the only person in the shakedown area that is armed," Peritz explained. "The deputies aren't armed, they've locked their weapons away. The detention officers aren't armed, not allowed to be armed in a jail setting. So now you've got a suspect inside a jail facility, in the shakedown area, with a fully-loaded semi automatic handgun."

Right now, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office isn't commenting on the on-going investigation.

"If a weapon makes it into a secure location, it's a perfect example of incompetence and is shocking," said Merrill's attorney, Phillip Hayes.

Merrill is behind bars on a $75,000 bond. He faces charges of unlawful possession of a firearm along with other charges. In the past, he has been convicted of burglaries and evading arrest.

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