Broward County employee trapped in courtroom holding cell for hours

Woman accidentally entered room through wrong door, couldn't get out

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County employee spent hours trapped inside an inmate holding cell at the new courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale last week after she mistakenly opened the wrong door and couldn't get out, WPLG reports.

Deborah Johnson, 61, was conducting an after-hours quarterly inspection of a fifth-floor courtroom last Wednesday when she mistakenly entered the holding cell through the wrong door and didn't have the necessary access code to open the door to get out, according to a Broward Sheriff's Office incident report.

Johnson tried to call her daughter for help, but she wasn't able to get any cellphone service in the room, the report said.

She wasn't found until nearly seven hours later, after Johnson's daughter received a strange text message from her mother.

"She's trapped in the courthouse," Johnson's daughter told a 911 dispatcher.

Audio: Full 911 call

According to the report, while Johnson was trapped in the holding cell, she heard someone, believed to be a member of the cleaning crew, inside the courtroom and asked for help through the locked door. That help never came.

Eventually, Johnson was able to get a cellphone signal and sent the odd message to her daughter.

"It says, 'Help me trapped fifth-floor courtroom 5170, call 911,'" Johnson's daughter told the dispatcher.

When the BSO deputy finally opened the door to the holding cell, Johnson "appeared to be OK but shaken," the report said. The deputy escorted Johnson to her office to get her belongings and then outside, where Johnson's daughter was waiting for her.