Prisoner tries escape in jail bus Correctional officers shoot him 4 times BALTIMORE CITY

December 15, 1992|By Michael James and David Michael Ettlin | Michael James and David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writers

A prisoner on his way from a Baltimore District Court lockup to jail was shot four times last night as guards foiled a bizarre escape attempt in which the inmate tried to drive off in a bus carrying 37 other inmates.

The prisoner -- identified as Lonnie D. Nixon, 24, of the 500 block of Laurens St. -- knocked a correctional officer out of the bus and slammed the door shut but got no further than the driver's seat before a volley shots brought his surrender, police said.

A key was in the ignition and the engine was running -- warming up the bus for the passengers, police said.

None of the other inmates appeared to take part in the incident, which occurred about 6:45 p.m. outside the Wabash Avenue District Court in Northwest Baltimore.

Capt. Gerard F. Busnuk of the city police said the prisoner was among the last of 38 inmates marched onto the white Division of Pretrial Services bus taking them to the Baltimore City Detention Center after court appearances.

Authorities said the correctional officer who was to drive the bus was checking prisoners' handcuffs and leg irons when he was pushed down the vehicle's two steps and out the door.

The prisoner managed to use a control lever to slam the door shut on the unidentified officer's hand and was sitting at the steering wheel when several other jail officers standing watch drew their guns and opened fire through the door.

Dozens of city and state police officers rushed to the scene to make sure the situation was under control and found the other inmates sitting in the bus.

Guards took a head count and no one was missing.

Several officers said Nixon -- who earlier had been ordered held on $100,000 bail on drug charges -- was hollering "Whoa, boy!" and appeared excited as he was placed in an ambulance and taken to Sinai Hospital. He was wounded twice each in the right arm and leg by the gunfire that left six bullet holes in the windows of the bus door.

Captain Busnuk said the man surrendered, "I assume because once he was shot he decided his plan was foolhardy."

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a state police spokesman, said the two officers who fired the shots will be placed on administrative duties pending an investigation, but he said he did not think they acted irresponsibly.

"They ordered him to stop and he gave no indication he was going to, so they opened fire," Mr. Sipes said. "The action was more than appropriate. You have an inmate who is attempting to drive a bus load of other inmates out on to the highway, and I'd say that is a very dangerous threat."

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