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Update: Probe begins into why jail released wrong inmate; Portland police seek help from Somali community

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Update: Probe begins into why jail released wrong inmate; Portland police seek help from Somali community

PORTLAND — Police, Cumberland County Sheriff's Department deputies and members of a regional violent crimes task force are looking for a man who was accidentally released from jail Wednesday night.

Ahmed Ismail, 23, was being held in the maximum-security unit at the Cumberland County Jail for allegedly robbing a couple in June. Portland police say they've had 55 contacts with him and they believe he is connected to several robberies and gun violations.

"We will find the suspect," Police Chief James Craig said in a joint press conference with Sheriff Mark Dion Thursday morning at the jail.

Craig said police have reason to believe Ismail is still in the area, and he and Dion have met with Somali leaders. Those leaders, according to Craig, have committed to helping facilitate Ismail's return.

"We've spoken with (his) mosque, and the chief is willing to take him in (from) there," Dion said. 

Dion said an investigation is under way to determine what went wrong Wednesday night. 

"Errors were committed," Dion said, adding that of the 10,000 intakes and releases the jail processed this year, only one other person was erroneously released. 

On Wednesday night, Ismail was released from jail after a guard called his name instead of the name of another man who was being bailed out.

The inmate who was supposed to have been released is Ismail Mohamed Awad, 20. He was being held after being arrested Nov. 5 on robbery charges in Portland.

Dion said guards usually confirm the identification of inmates by photo. He said Awad and Ismail do not look alike, and that Ismail played along by pretending to be the other man.

"He took the other gentleman's clothing, wallet and personal belongings," Dion said, adding that Ismail will be charged with escape and aggravated forgery. "He should have said, 'no, that's not me.'"

Staff at the jail's intake division recognized the mistake a short time after Ismail walked out the door, when an officer called from the lobby asking where Awad was.

Dion said Ismail may have left the jail in a vehicle. Awad was released at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

Ismail was arrested by Portland police on July 27 and charged with armed
robbery and discharging a firearm after he allegedly robbed a man and a woman on Smith Street. The arrest came a day after Ismail
was detained by police in connection with the report of a man waving a gun at a boy at 658 Congress St.

No arrests were made in connection with that incident, but Congress
Street was closed for more than a half hour while police investigated.

Ismail's last known address is in Portland. His family had recently moved to get away from him, according to the Sheriff's Department.

He was being held on two counts of robbery and two counts of aggravated reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

Updated at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3.