Escape attempt at Jessup ends amid gunfire

December 17, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

A 34-year-old inmate who tried to scale a fence at the House of Correction in Jessup surrendered after officers opened fire in his direction, said a corrections spokesman.

Inmate Randolph McDowell, of Baltimore, made the "spontaneous" escape attempt about 3 p.m. yesterday while he and 138 other inmates were in the recreation yard at the House of Correction, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

"He bolted over an interior fence toward two perimeter security fences in the southwest corner of the yard," Sipes said. "The alarm was given and correctional officers gave chase."

McDowell, serving a three-year term for violation of probation on a theft charge, successfully climbed one of the perimeter fences, "but cut himself and became entangled in razor ribbon and fell in between the fences," Sipes said.

Correctional officers from two adjacent towers -- one armed with a shotgun and the other with an M-14 rifle -- opened fire, Sipes said.

"Under fire from two directions, he decided to give up," Sipes said.

Five shots were fired, but none struck McDowell, Sipes said.

McDowell received multiple injuries, including cuts to his legs, left hand and forearm, right thigh, left toes and stomach, Sipes said. He was treated at the hospital in the 1,304-inmate facility, Sipes said.

McDowell will face escape charges, which have a maximum penalty of 10 years, Sipes said.

All of the inmates, meanwhile, were accounted for, Sipes said.

During the escape attempt, there were six correctional officers and one supervisor in the yard and four in adjacent towers, Sipes said.

He said the prison officers responded appropriately in handling McDowell's escape attempt. "The correctional officers did exactly what they're supposed to do when the alarm went out," Sipes said.

In a recent escape from the state's most secure prison, the "Supermax" in Baltimore, the corrections commissioner blamed correctional officers for not following procedures.

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