Search Continues For Escaped Prisoner

August 18, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,

The search for a 20-year-old prisoner who escaped after attacking a deputy is being conducted on two fronts: a joint law enforcement task force and the man's mother, according to authorities.

Howard County police and sheriff's deputies are searching for Devin Champagne, a Jessup man who escaped late Thursday while being transported. Champagne's concerned mother is trying to help them find him.

"The mother has been extremely cooperative," Sheriff's Department spokesman Mark Verderaime said Monday. Ann Marie Champagne could not be reached to comment.

Police believe that she has had some sort of contact with her son in the days since he choked Deputy Don Chase as the veteran officer drove him to the county's detention center. Verderaime said police don't think he returned to the family's home in the 7500 block of Montevideo Court, just over the Anne Arundel line.

Verderaime said that he spoke Monday with Chase, who he said "was in good spirits" and still undergoing tests at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was in good condition.

As of Monday afternoon, only one tip had been received by police, according to Detective Cpl. Michael Hajek, who heads the fugitive pursuit unit of the Sheriff's Department.

"I thought we would have gotten more," he said. The tip turned out to be unfounded, and Hajek said sardonically, "I think someone saw a ghost in Dundalk."

Still, police believe Champagne remains in the area and are confident that they will find him. Hajek said police are working "around the clock" in their efforts to apprehend Champagne. The Sheriff's Department is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of Champagne. Anyone with information is being asked to call 911.

Champagne, who was on probation in Anne Arundel County for a 2007 assault conviction, could now face charges of attempted murder, assaulting a police officer and escape.

The attack was not the first time Champagne had encountered Chase on Thursday evening. Champagne had left the courthouse after hearing that he had been found guilty on at least one of the two charges against him. After his mother coaxed him back to the courthouse, Chase was the first officer to approach him, bringing him back to the courtroom without incident, according to Jan Deboissiere, his public defender. His verdicts - he was also found not guilty of burglary - had already been read.

Champagne, who Deboissiere said faced two to eight years on the theft charge, was placed in handcuffs and leg shackles. Shortly before Chase's vehicle reached the detention center, Champagne, sitting alone in the back seat, managed to get his handcuffs in front of him and used them to choke Chase from behind, authorities said. The former Baltimore police officer blacked out briefly and came to as Champagne was attempting to pull Chase's gun from its holster, authorities said. Unable to get the weapon, he fled through the front passenger window, according to authorities.

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