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Arizona inmate gun incident at Derek Chauvin prison reveals security risks

EXCLUSIVE: A federal inmate at the same prison complex as ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is set to go to trial this month for allegedly trying to shoot his ex-wife in the face after smuggling a .25-caliber handgun into the facility’s minimum-security wing – highlighting red flags at a penitentiary already under scrutiny for the stabbing of one of the country’s most infamous prisoners.

Jaime “Tio” Jacobo, 51, faces charges including attempted murder and assault with intent to murder in connection with the Nov. 13, 2022, incident in which he allegedly pulled the trigger only for his Sundance A-25 to fail to fire. 

He convinced Ismaela Reyes, who filed for divorce in 2019 before his arrest, to accompany two of their children during a visit that weekend, she told Fox News Digital.

But when she met with him in the visitation room, she could tell something was off. He was visibly shaking and looked like he hadn’t slept, she said. After several attempts to get her away from the guards – outside on the balcony, in a quieter corner of the room – he went into the restroom alone. A moment later, he came out fumbling with something in his pants, she said. The gun.

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“He came and he grabbed me by the hair, and he pointed it in my face,” she told Fox News Digital. 

He squeezed the trigger. However, according to Reyes and another witness, former inmate Tim Herman, the bullets just started falling out of the weapon.

“He pulls the trigger. I wonder am I dead already?” she said. “I felt that he pulled the trigger again. I was trying to get up, and I can feel something cold running down my neck … I see the bullet falling to the floor. It was like slow motion.”

After several more failed attempts to shoot, Jacobo allegedly started pummeling Reyes with the gun like a club, she said. She fought back, kicking and screaming as their children watched through the reinforced glass window.

They put a metal detector in the front by the visiting area. They need to check their inmates.

— Ismaela Reyes, victim

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A guard in the room grabbed his radio and called for help, according to the witnesses, then fled.

“The guard runs away, I’m on the floor, and [Jacobo] is beating me up,” Reyes said. “I stretched out my arm to him, and I’m like, ‘Help me, help me!’ And we made eye contact. And he closes the door on me.”

In a statement, a BOP spokesperson said the bureau could not discuss the matter for privacy, safety and security reasons and does not comment on pending litigation or ongoing investigations.

The couple’s juvenile son tried to run in and break it up, but Jacobo allegedly aimed the weapon at him, too, sending the panicked teen sprawling back out the door. He collapsed and began praying in the lobby, according to Reyes, and remains traumatized more than a year later.

FCI Tucson Google Maps

Another inmate rushed in and tackled her estranged husband, she said. Together, they knocked the gun out of his hand as more corrections officers arrived and restored order.

Herman, a 63-year-old former prisoner at the facility there who was released just days ago, tells Fox News Digital that “lax conditions and mismanagement” were a known problem at the Tucson prison complex, where he said the smuggling of contraband could be as easy as someone tossing it over the fence.

“This is the first time that anyone’s got a loaded gun and attempted to murder somebody in the visitation room,” said Herman, who said he was in the hallway just outside the visitation room at the time of the incident.

The attempted shooting happened at the minimum-security “camp,” one of about 70 such facilities around the country, across the street from where Chauvin was stabbed at a medium-security facility last week.

Read the indictment (Mobile users go here)

According to Herman, he worked as a legal clerk while incarcerated in Tucson between Jan. 8, 2020, and Nov. 29, and he wrote down a narrative of events as told by multiple inmates who witnessed the incident – critical of the warden and executive assistant.

On the morning of the fiasco, prisoners received only a minimal screening on their way into the visitation room, he said.

After the incident, Herman claims other inmates were punished for Jacobo’s actions and that prison officials had been “vague and misleading” in their statements to the media – particularly when authorities said no one was hurt. While Reyes says she was not offered medical assistance at the scene, her injuries provide a basis for some of the charges against Jacobo. And Herman’s report on the incident also alleges that another visitor fell and hurt her face while trying to get away.

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A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons said that the agency does not comment on pending litigation and that the initial statement about no injuries “was based on the information available at the time.”

A federal grand jury handed down an 11-count indictment in July – more than eight months after the incident. Charges include attempted murder, assault, assault of a minor, strangulation and firearms charges. Jacobo is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 27.

The prison complex previously told Fox News Digital that it takes its duty to protect its inmates, employees and the community seriously.

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The “camp,” as the minimum-security section is known, is supposed to house only non-violent criminals. Jacobo initially received an eight-year sentence for drug crimes, Herman said, but had been disciplined for allegedly threatening to kill another inmate’s family. While in the special housing unit following the threat, he was accused of getting into two separate fights. 

“Then when he gets back to the camp, he gets a gun and tries to murder his wife,” Herman said. “Why would you allow Jaime Jacobo to come back to the camp when you sent him to the SHU for violent threats, and he was violent when he was there?”

Roughly a year later, Chauvin was stabbed in the legal library of another federal facility in the same complex. According to prosecutors, 52-year-old John Turscak attacked Chauvin from behind in the law library of the facility’s medium-security section with a makeshift knife.

George Floyd image prior to his death in Minneapolis in May 2020

Chauvin’s family is “very concerned about the facility’s capacity to protect Derek from further harm,” his lawyer, Greg Erickson, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “They remain unassured that any changes have been made to the faulty procedures that allowed Derek’s attack to occur in the first place.”

The FBI dropped Turscak, a former gang member and snitch, as an informant for dealing drugs, greenlighting assaults and extorting money, according to prosecutors.

He allegedly told investigators that he picked Black Friday for the attack to symbolize both “Black Lives Matter” and the “Black Hand” of the Mexican Mafia prison gang and plotted the ambush for a month.

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Authorities said guards intervened “immediately,” but Erickson questioned how fast the response really was – noting Chauvin’s 22 stab wounds. 

“Why was Derek allowed into the law library without a guard in close enough proximity to stop a possible attack?” he asked. “His family continues to wonder.”

The attorney did not immediately respond to messages from Fox News Digital.

Prison experts have warned that Chauvin, like other high-profile inmates, is at increased risk.

“He was a dead man walking his first day in prison,” said Keith Rovere, a former prison minister and the host of the “Lighter Side of Serial Killers” podcast. “This definitely won’t be the last attack.”

Chauvin was one of four officers who arrested George Floyd in May 2020 after he allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill at a coffee shop and refused to cooperate with police.

Erickson previously slammed the prison for “poor procedures and lack of institutional control” – referencing an incident last year in which an inmate allegedly smuggled a firearm into the facility and tried to shoot someone.

According to the Associated Press, the BOP is experiencing severe staffing shortages that put a heavy strain on remaining corrections officers.

It’s gotten so bad, Herman said, that inmates are offering to police themselves to help guards combat the complex problem of prison smuggling.

“Most inmates don’t want drugs and alcohol and certainly not weapons [smuggled in],” Herman said. “Any time you have an inmate with an altered state of mind, that’s going to be trouble.”

Reyes said she still hasn’t been told how authorities believe Jacobo smuggled the gun inside.



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