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Washington County inmate attempts escape from hospital ER

December 03, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- Law enforcement officers twice had to use a Taser on a prisoner who tried to escape from them Wednesday night in the emergency room at Washington County Hospital.

The prisoner didn't resist during the initial four hours he was at the hospital receiving treatment for self-inflicted injuries, Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore said Thursday.

When the two Washington County Detention Center correctional officers who had escorted the prisoner to the hospital tried to prepare him to be returned to the jail, at around 6 p.m., he began to struggle with them, Mullendore said.

Handcuffs and leg irons remained on the prisoner the entire time he was at the hospital, but the trouble started when the officers tried to replace his waist chain, Mullendore said.

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When the prisoner became combative, other officers went to assist, including several Hagerstown Police officers, two of whom had been at the hospital on an unrelated call, and another sheriff's deputy, Mullendore said.

Five hospital security officers also assisted law enforcement, hospital spokeswoman Nicole Jovel said Thursday.

Jovel declined to answer questions about hospital security protocol regarding prisoners, citing policy against discussing those procedures for safety reasons.

She said, however, that the new hospital will have holding cell areas for prisoners who are awaiting outpatient treatment.

Officers used a "dry-stun" from a Taser, which involves pressing the device directly against the torso, Mullendore said. When that had no effect, they discharged the probes of the Taser, Mullendore said.

The struggle occurred in a patient treatment room of the emergency area, but might have spilled into the hallway, Mullendore said.

The treatment room did not have a door and its structure is such that visitors, staff and hospital patrons could have watched the incident unfold, Mullendore said.

The incident was over in a few minutes, Mullendore said.

The prisoner was taken to the emergency room around 2 p.m. Wednesday after he suffered a cut to his head after jumping off the 3-foot-high sink in his cell.

The prisoner struck his head on the cell's toilet in what Mullendore called a suicide attempt.

The Sheriff's Department would not release the name of the prisoner. Mullendore said the man was being held in the jail on charges of violating a protective order.

He was returned to the jail and will be transported to the Thomas B. Finan Center in Cumberland, Md., later this week, Mullendore said. The center is an inpatient psychiatric hospital and an assisted living program, according to its Web site.

Mullendore said that aside from walk-offs from home detention and work release, it had been at least five years since a Washington County inmate tried to escape from detainment.

In January 2006, Jeffery A. Wroten, a Roxbury Correctional Institution officer, was shot to death by an inmate he was guarding at the hospital. Brandon T. Morris, who was at the hospital because he had stabbed himself with a sewing needle, used Wroten's gun to shoot the officer, then escaped in a carjacked cab.

Morris was convicted in Wroten's murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2008.

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