AUGUSTA — The sight of a rifle-toting Kennebec County Sheriff’s deputy at the corner of State and Court streets Thursday morning caused more than a number of heads to turn.

Other deputies surrounded the Kennebec County jail at spaced intervals as a planned evacuation was conducted. Passers-by watched as some inmates were being counted in an outdoor, fenced-in recreation area at the jail.

Sheriff Ken Mason said later the annual drill was conducted to meet state Department of Corrections regulations.

“Everybody had to get out of the building, all inmates, all employees and it was extremely successful,” Mason said. “I am very proud of my fellow employees for the job that they did.”

He estimated that it took less than 10 minutes to get everyone out of the building, including all 155 inmates.

“You have to account for everybody because some inmates will shut their door and not want to leave,” Mason said.

Mason said the drill was a surprise for most of those involved.

“Most of my (correctional officers) working on the inside didn’t know that it was going to happen,” he said. “A lot of my staff is very new and they conducted themselves amazingly.”

He said the officers surrounding the building were a safety precaution.

“We had people all around the perimeter that were armed,” he said. “We did our best to keep them out of sight and out of mind, but it’s hard to do.”

The jail faces busy State Street and scores of people drive on the Court Street side to reach the Capital Judicial Center.

“There weren’t any gunmen on the roof or anything like that,” he said.

He said the original plans called for a joint exercise with the Augusta Fire Department so members of an entry team could practice removing injured people from the building. However, the city firefighters were dispatched to a motor vehicle crash on Route 3 at the time of the drill.

The planned evacuation also held up a tractor-trailer driver who was delivering items to the jail.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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