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Police: Self-inflicted injury preceded shooting at hospital

June 20, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Hours before he was shot Friday during an escape attempt at Martinsburg's City Hospital, Donald Berkley Surber Jr. -- who is accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend -- had cut his own wrists, according to a Martinsburg Police Department press release.

Correctional officers took Surber from Eastern Regional Jail, where he was being held, to the hospital for treatment. But when Surber tried to flee from the hospital and reached for an officer's gun, an officer shot him once, wounding him in the arm and torso, police said.

After the shooting, which happened about 8:30 p.m., Surber was treated at City Hospital, then taken to Winchester (Va.) Medical Center in critical condition, City Hospital spokeswoman Teresa McCabe said.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Saturday that Surber still was at Winchester Medical Center, a trauma center, but she didn't know his condition.

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A Winchester Medical Center nursing supervisor said the hospital won't release patient conditions.

Correctional officer Joshua A. Brown told Martinsburg Police Department detectives Lt. G.B. Swartwood and Cpl. S.F. Doyle that he and correctional officer Cpl. Ronald Right were responding to City Hospital to relieve correctional officers that already were there with Surber, according to a complaint filed by Swartwood.

After having his wounds sutured, Surber was putting his shirt on and the officers were about to hook him up to his "belly chain" and cuffs when Surber bolted from the room, according to statements the correctional officers gave to the detectives.

Locked double emergency room doors at the hospital stopped Surber from escaping and he turned around and lunged toward Brown, reaching for the officer's weapon with both hands, according to Right's account of the incident.

Brown told Surber to get on the ground when Surber turned on the officer, who then fired his weapon one time, striking him in the shoulder, according to Swartwood's complaint.

After being shot, Surber was compliant with the officers' commands, Swartwood said in the complaint.

The Martinsburg Police Department's detective unit couldn't be reached Saturday for more information.

Police said they obtained a felony warrant from Berkeley County Magistrate Harry Snow charging Surber with escape from a correctional facility. Games-Neely approved extraditing Surber when he is released from Winchester Medical Center, according to the release.

Surber already faced one count of first-degree murder and one count of kidnapping in connection with a standoff a week ago.

It happened at the Raider Lane home of Katherine Nicole Sharp, his ex-girlfriend, in the Ridgefield subdivision near Martinsburg.

The standoff lasted about 26 hours.

On Monday afternoon, a police special response team released a type of gas into the home, then apprehended Surber inside.

A warrant charging Surber with first-degree murder alleges Sharp was killed last Sunday.

Before Friday's shooting, Surber, 37, of Winchester, Va., was scheduled to appear in court on the murder and kidnapping charges this Thursday.

Friday's escape attempt and shooting has similarities to a prisoner's escape attempt from Washington County Hospital in 2006.

Brandon T. Morris, an inmate at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown, was being guarded in a hospital room by Jeffery A. Wroten, an RCI correctional officer.

Morris was at the hospital because of what authorities described as a self-inflicted injury: He had stabbed himself in the liver with a sewing needle.

Morris grabbed Wroten's gun and shot him to death.

Morris was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting.

Staff writer Matthew Umstead contributed to this story.

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