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‘Very unsettling': Jail mistakenly released convicted carjacker with life sentence

Investigators believe day-shift jail staff made an error during the booking process at the downtown jail


Sacramento County Main Jail.

Photo/Paul Kitagaki Jr. of The Sacramento Bee via MCT

By Rosalio Ahumada
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A man convicted of carjacking and serving a sentence of life in prison was mistakenly released from the Sacramento County Main Jail on Wednesday night. He was found and returned to custody more than 14 hours later in San Joaquin County.

Investigators believe an error made by sheriff’s jail staff led to the release of Shaquille Lash, 28, who was not eligible for parole for another 13 years, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Rodney Grassmann said Thursday.

Lash on Wednesday was transferred from the California Correctional Institution in Kern County to appear in court Friday in Sacramento County to face state unemployment fraud charges.

The California Employment Development Department has been fighting widespread fraud since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago. Prison inmates throughout the state have been suspected of or convicted of fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits over the past two years.

Grassmann said investigators believe day-shift jail staff made an error during the booking process at the downtown jail, and that records error made it appear to night-shift staff that Lash was eligible to be released.

“We will be investigating to determine if there was a procedural failure, human error or a combination of both,” Grassmann told reporters during a news conference at the Sheriff’s Office in Carmichael. “There are procedures for everything. But humans are handling this and doing this, and they make errors. And that’s what happened here.”

He said the Sheriff’s Office will figure out where and how the error was made and address the mistake. Errors that have led to the mistaken release of a jail inmate have happened before in Sacramento County, Grassmann said, but they don’t happen frequently.

“I think what makes this more impalpable is the person that we released,” the sheriff’s spokesman told reporters. “To unknowingly put somebody on the street like that is very unsettling.”

Not eligible for parole until 2035

Lash had been serving a life sentence for a San Joaquin County conviction of carjacking, vehicle theft and second-degree robbery with enhancements for using a gun and committing a felony in support street gang activity. Grassmann said Lash was admitted to state prison custody on May 14, 2013, and was scheduled to be considered for parole in 2035.

Lash was released shortly before 10:30 p.m. Grassmann said a review process of jail inmate releases led to sheriff’s officials finding some indication that a possible wrongful inmate release was made.

The agency’s Major Crimes detectives and the Special Services Unit of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began searching for Lash and found him about 1 p.m. Thursday in Stockton. Grassmann said Lash was taken into custody without further incident, and there was no indication he was found with any weapons.

Investigators were trying to determine how Lash got from Sacramento to Stockton and what he did in the more than 14 hours he was free.

“We’re all curious as to what went on during those hours,” Grassmann said. “We’re happy over the fact that Mr. Lash was not able to commit any additional violent crimes while he was out. I will speak for the sheriff and for everybody here that works for the Sheriff’s Office, we are very relieved.”

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