Escaped inmates recaptured in Okla.
WEATHERFORD, Okla. (AP) — The last two of eight inmates who allegedly escaped in a transport van in western Oklahoma when guards stopped to take at least one ill prisoner to a hospital and left the keys in the vehicle were recaptured Tuesday, police said.
Lester Burns and Michael Coleman were taken into custody shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday in Weatherford, according to Assistant Police Chief Louis Flowers.
“Somebody called in on them. They saw them in the backyard of a residence,” Flowers said.
The two were arrested in the backyard of the home in eastern Weatherford by Custer County deputies who were assisting in the search. There were no injuries, Flowers said.
The inmates are from jails in the western and northern United States, Flowers said, and were being transported by Prisoner Transportation Services of Nashville, Tenn. The company confirmed it was transporting the inmates, but declined further comment because an investigation was ongoing.
Coleman was being held for assault and Burns for failure to pay child support, according to Flowers. He said he did not know what state or states the men were originally being held.
One or two of the inmates fell ill near Weatherford, which is about an hour west of Oklahoma City on Interstate 40, Cox said.
Flowers said the inmates were left in a locked compartment inside the van as a guard began taking some of them to a restroom.
“Two of the prisoners kicked the partition out and were able to gain access to the front of the van. ... The keys were still in the van as far as we know, and it was still running,” Flowers said.
Cox said the inmates stopped about one mile down the road and two ran away.
Dogs and helicopters were summoned to aid in the search, and officers went door-to-door during the afternoon, according to Flowers.
Burns and Coleman were found virtually across the street from where they had left the van, Flowers said.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said officers also recovered a 12-gauge shotgun that had been inside the vehicle.
Critics of private prison transportation companies have complained that they are poorly regulated.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford was locked down for about two hours while police searched for the two inmates. The school lifted the lock down just before 4 p.m., KOKH television reported.