Va. inmate tries to grab deputy's gun, escape custody

Editor’s Note --  PoliceOne commends this deputy on prevailing during a disarming attempt that occurred during an escape attempt. He fought and won against an inmate who was trying to kill him.

But what can we learn? "Prisoner transports are always dangerous" says P1 expert Gary Klugiewicz. "Although it is not clear from this news article, it seems reasonable to assume that this prisoner was not restrained, or if he was restrained then the restraint had been taken off -- WHY?"

There are different types of both hard and soft restraints that can be used to allow only enough movement for a task like using the bathroom, which can be accomplished by freeing only one hand while keeping the legs restraints on.

"Many escape attempts happen during bathroom breaks," says Gary. "This was a dangerous inmate. There were two deputies on this hospital run.  Where was the other deputy?  Contact/cover can only work when one officer is covering the other officer. It doesn't matter that one of the deputies was a female. You lose much of your right to privacy when you are incarcerated. The fact that one deputy was fending off both a physical assault and a disarming attempt would indicated that the inmate was not properly restrained and that the second deputy was not in a position to immediate assist the first deputy. Remember officers need to maintain the position of advantage at all time." 

By Matthew Roy
The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

NORFOLK , Va. — An inmate's attempt to grab a deputy's gun and escape Wednesday morning could have ended differently. The deputy managed to eject the magazine during a struggle, and when the inmate tried to shoot him, it didn't fire.

That's according to police and sheriff's department staff. The incident prompted a lock down at a medical building at 400 W. Brambleton Ave. that ended when the man surrendered, authorities said. The deputy had minor injuries.

The inmate, Anthony T. Harris, 36, had been in custody for robberies in Norfolk and Chesapeake, according to authorities and court records. In December 2005, a Norfolk police officer shot him in the hand in a confrontation after a bank robbery.

Wednesday's incident happened around 11 a.m. at Hague Medical Center. Two deputies, a man and woman, had escorted Anthony Harris there, said Bonita Harris, a sheriff's office spokeswoman. Then, the male deputy took him to a restroom.

The inmate attacked the deputy in the restroom, biting him about the face and head , Bonita Harris said. They struggled over the weapon. The deputy followed his training and disabled the gun. After the inmate tried to fire it, the deputy got the gun back and the inmate fled down the hall.

Deputies called for backup, and police quickly surrounded the building. Patients and staff were told to stay put, with nobody going into or out of the building.

Officer Chris Amos, a police spokesman, said Anthony Harris surrendered a bit later. He was escorted out the building, his head covered to hide his face from cameras.

Anthony Harris is awaiting sentencing for the 2005 bank robbery. In the confrontation after the robbery, a Norfolk police sergeant located Harris at a truck stop on Northampton Boulevard in Virginia Beach. Harris refused orders to get down and kept his hand in his pocket, maneuvering as if concealing something. The sergeant shot Harris in that hand .

Harris pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in October and is scheduled to be sentenced in June, said Amanda Howie, a spokeswoman for the Norfolk c ommonwealth's a ttorney's o ffice.

He also was convicted last year in Chesapeake of use of a firearm, two counts of robbery and a probation violation. He was sentenced to serve 20 years; additional time was suspended.

He recently wrote a letter to the court asking to have his 20-year sentence reconsidered.

Wednesday's incident is expected to go to a grand jury. Charges of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, malicious wounding and escape by force are possible, said Amos.

The sheriff's department is conducting an internal review of what happened, Bonita Harris said.

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