Attack of late labor commissioner’s son in jail blamed on “mechanical failure;” Attorney disagrees

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OKLAHOMA CITY - We are learning more about a violent attack on an inmate at the Oklahoma County Jail.

The attorney for Christian Costello says it was human and mechanical error that led to the attack.

Christian Costello is behind bars and charged with the first-degree murder of his father, Mark Costello, in August of last year.

Mark Costello, who was the state’s labor commissioner at the time, agreed to meet his son at a Braum’s restaurant along N. May Ave.

While at the restaurant, witnesses say Christian stabbed his father repeatedly. Mark Costello later died from his injuries.

Costello is in jail awaiting trial, and was attacked inside his cell on Monday.

Christian's attorney, Public Defender Bob Ravitz, says while it's obvious the other inmates should not have been able to get out of their cell, Costello should not have even been on that floor.

The attack happened on the "administrative segregation" floor, an area for violent offenders or those who cause problems.

Ravitz says Costello should have never been moved from the mental health floor.

He was moved from the mental health floor to the "administrative segregation" floor sometime last week.

"It could have happened to Christian, it could have happened to anyone," Ravitz said.

"As of right now, we don't know why," Mark Opgrande, spokesman for the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, said.

Sheriff's officials say they are still investigating, but they believe two inmates were able to rig their doors so they would not lock.

They believe the inmates waited until Costello's cell opened to run out of their cells and attack him.

"They were able to pop the lock on their cells and then run into his cell," Opgrande said.

"He was pummeled. His face was bloodied and battered," Ravitz said.

Ravitz has seen the surveillance video of the attack and says he believes things happened a little differently than how the sheriff's office described.

Ravitz says the problem begins when the worker monitoring the area leaves for lunch.

He says at that point, there is no one watching the cells.

"As soon as she left, this guy (an inmate) pushes his way out and starts wandering around, talking to people," Ravitz said. "When the controller comes back from lunch, he pretends like he was asked to be out by someone else and he's sweeping."

Ravitz says a worker then went to open Costello's cell remotely so he could get out for his daily "recreation" time.

Ravitz says that worker opened another cell by mistake, tried to lock that one back up and then unlocked Costello's cell.

Even though they tried to lock the other cell, Ravitz says it was too late.

"They opened Christian's cell, realized the second guy got out, tried to shut it but these two guys went in and started beating Christian," Ravitz said.

Ravitz says this attack highlights a major flaw in the Oklahoma County Jail.

"We have a jail that people can continually get out of rooms because we need new locks and we need new doors. That's wrong," he said. "The only way you can guarantee nobody gets hurt is to fix these doors and it has to be done right away."

Sheriff's officials agree it is a problem, adding that jail employees check the doors often.

"That's constantly part of our checks when we go through. You grab the door, you pull the door, try to make sure it doesn't open," Opgrande said.

The names of the inmates who attacked Costello have not been released. Sheriff's officials say they will likely face charges in connection with the attack.

Sheriff's officials say Costello was originally moved to the 12th floor based on a recommendation from mental health professionals that he was "getting better."

Christian Costello has since been moved back to the mental health floor.