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Standoff ends peacefully

Inmate with weapon held hearing officer hostage

Inmate with weapon held hearing officer hostage

October 20, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - After holding a weapon made from a toothbrush and razor blades to the throat of a Maryland Division of Correction hearing officer for about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon, a Maryland Correctional Training Center inmate surrendered to a negotiator, causing no serious injury to the officer, according to a prison official.

The inmate grabbed the officer after being escorted into a hearing room in the south side of Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown on Roxbury Road at about 1:15 p.m., where an administrative law judge waited to hear the inmate's appeal on a grievance, said Capt. Priscilla Doggett, Maryland Division of Correction spokeswoman.

"He broke the rules, got found guilty and was appealing it" to the administrative law judge Tuesday, Maryland Division of Correction Commissioner Frank C. Sizer Jr. said.

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The inmate, who is 44 years old and began serving a 35-year sentence for robbery with a deadly weapon and assault in July 1993, pulled the hearing officer from his chair into the corner of the room, holding the weapon to his throat, Doggett said. The administrative law judge was on the opposite side of the table from the hearing officer when he was pulled from the chair, Sizer said. A case manager, who was also inside the room, called on a correctional officer outside the door for help, he said.

The names of those involved in the incident were not released Tuesday.

The inmate had been reviewing a file, which included all information related to his institutional history, prior to the hearing, Doggett said. He was escorted into the hearing room without handcuffs by a correctional officer, Doggett said.

Sizer said he did not know how the weapon managed to get inside the room.

"All we know is that all of a sudden it was there," he said.

The inmate held the hearing officer with the weapon until about 2:50 p.m., at which point the negotiator was able to talk the inmate into releasing the officer, Sizer said.

Sizer said that the hearing officer likely was targeted because "he was the first available person" in the room. The inmate had prepared a written note prior to his hearing, which listed his grievances: "How he felt he was treated and so on," Sizer said.

During the negotiation process, the inmate requested to speak with Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele among others, Sizer said.

"He wanted to see a whole lot of people," he said.

Sizer said that the inmate was familiar with the case manager and hostage negotiator in the room and gave them a piece of paper with his demands.

Once the inmate released the hearing officer, the officer was treated for "a small knick on his neck," Sizer said. "He wanted to drive himself home, but we wouldn't let him," he said.

The hearing officer has been employed with the Maryland Division of Correction for 27 years, Doggett said. She did not know the age of the hearing officer.

The inmate was transferred to a maximum-security prison following the incident, Doggett said.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Internal Investigation Unit is investigating the incident, Doggett said.

Joseph P. Sacchet, warden at MCI-H, said that in his 30 years working in prisons, "this is really my first major emergency in my career."

"In all the training that we do, in emergency exercises, it really paid off to a T today," he said.

On Tuesday, MCI-H went into emergency operations, meaning a command center was established and the hostage situation was monitored, Doggett said.

There are about 6,800 prisoners at Roxbury Road's three state prisons, Doggett said.

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