- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa inmate repeatedly fought with correctional officers and destroyed property in the weeks before escaping from a maximum-security unit, where he had been transferred as punishment, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Convicted armed robber Justin Kestner, 25, kicked an officer in the chest with both feet during a June 12 outburst at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, sending the officer into a door and injuring his arm, the documents obtained through the state’s open records law show. Two months earlier, he destroyed many of his cell’s fixtures during an outburst that ended when an officer sprayed him with chemicals.

“Someone is going to get hurt today and it’s gonna be one of you, bring in (an officer) and let him get a black eye,” Kestner said April 9 as he ripped brackets out of his cell walls and tried to use a shelf to hit officers, records show.

Authorities have said it is fortunate Kestner was captured in Illinois hours after his escape Sunday without violence. His violent behavior behind bars underscores the safety risk he posed.

Kestner was serving time for robbing gas stations in Sioux City in 2009. He had lived in the A-Pod, where inmates are confined 23 hours a day for disciplinary and safety reasons, for less than a month before his escape.

A prison judge had sentenced him to one year of disciplinary detention and one year of lost earned time - the maximum punishment - for the June 12 assault, citing aggravating factors that included a “history of violence, repeat infractions and significant impact to institutional operations.”

In all, Kestner amassed 40 disciplinary reports for a wide array of misconduct during his six years in custody, and been cited for fighting repeatedly, possessing tattoo equipment and making threats.

“Our staff are exceptional and deal with behaviors such as these on a routine basis,” prison spokeswoman Rebecca Bowker said.

Kestner had slammed a computer monitor to the ground in the prison’s health care unit on June 12, then fought with officers and repeatedly called one a name before injuring the other with the “mule kick.” Kestner was restrained and placed into a sleeveless smock meant to protect inmates who might hurt themselves.

Kestner told the judge he was hallucinating on pills he’d obtained from another inmate and didn’t know “where the dream stopped and reality began.” He added, “I broke my TV on accident and that should be enough punishment.”

During the April 9 confrontation, Kestner damaged a cell mirror, tore a security light from the wall, ripped out a bookshelf and destroyed a stool. He ignored orders to stop and tried to hit officers through his cell bars with the shelf. After an officer sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, Kestner threw the shelf, striking an officer in the foot.

For that, Kestner told the judge he was angry at officers for disciplining him for a prior incident. “If I’m going to the hole, I’m going to make it worth my time,” he said, according to the records. Two days later, he was disciplined for covering the security camera in his cell with toilet paper.

Kestner crawled out of his cell early Sunday, authorities said, by removing the screws to an access cover in his cell shower that led to a narrow space that concealed the building’s pipes. He then crawled through a vent and out to the roof, used a rope made from bedsheets to guide himself down, then fled on foot before stealing a car. Kestner abandoned the car hours later near Geneseo, Illinois, and was arrested walking along a highway.

Once projected for release in 2019, Kestner now faces up to five more years for felony escape.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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