In 1 day, 3 prisoners launch escapes from hospital campuses

Three prisoners attempted to escape police custody after being treated at hospitals across the country — all within the same 24 hours. 

The unrelated incidents took place at hospitals in Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania. In two cases, police are still searching for the escapees. 

Ochsner Medical Center-West Bank

During the afternoon of Feb. 25, Leon Ruffin — a convicted felon in custody on a second-degree murder charge — was taken to Ochsner Medical Center-West Bank in Gretna, La., about 4 miles from the jail where he was being held, USA Today reported. Mr. Ruffin was to be treated for a suspected seizure; however, police suspected he was faking some of his injuries, Jefferson Parish (La.) Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said during a news conference. 

Mr. Ruffin was discharged from the hospital around 6:40 p.m., and was to be transported back to the jail by a deputy. But before the deputy's unmarked vehicle had left the hospital parking lot, Mr. Ruffin created a disturbance that led the deputy to exit the vehicle and open Mr. Ruffin's door. Mr. Ruffin pepper sprayed her and fled in the vehicle, ABC News reported. The deputy fired shots at the car, but does not know if Mr. Ruffin was hit. Authorities are still unsure where he got the pepper spray. 

Mary Deynoodt, CEO of Ochsner Medical Center-West Bank, told Becker's no colleagues or patients were harmed during the altercation. 

"Law enforcement continues to have our complete cooperation in their ongoing search and investigation into the incident. We are grateful to local law enforcement and our security team for their efforts to keep our campus, colleagues and those we care for safe," Ms. Deynoodt said in a statement Feb. 26. "We recognize how unsettling this event was for those who live and work nearby. We are communicating with and making resources available to any staff in need of assistance."

HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital

On the morning of Feb. 26, Ernest Lee Reese was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. on domestic violence charges, according to NBC affiliate WPTV. That afternoon, he was taken to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce, Fla., complaining of a health issue. 

Mr. Reese was medically cleared and discharged, but said that he felt faint upon leaving the hospital. An officer let him sit on the curb outside the facility to drink some water; he was still handcuffed at the time, per the report. 

Mr. Reese "took off," according to Fort Pierce Police Lieutenant James Grecco. The officer lost sight of him after a brief foot chase. He carjacked someone in a nearby physician's office's parking lot, and was later seen entering an acquaintance's apartment complex. The acquaintance told police she had dropped Mr. Reese at another location. He was located and arrested hours later. 

HCA Healthcare did not immediately return Becker's request for comment; however, a spokesperson confirmed to the news station that the carjacking took place outside the hospital's campus. 

Temple University Hospital-Episcopal Campus 

Alleem Bordan was also arrested on Feb. 25 on charges of stealing a car from a delivery driver. He complained of pain while being booked, and was taken to Temple University Hospital's Episcopal Campus in Philadelphia, ABC6 reported. 

He was discharged around 6:42 a.m. on Feb. 26 and was being walked to a police vehicle in the hospital parking lot when he fled, still in handcuffs, according to NBC10.

Upon his escape, a few schools in the area went into lockdowns, which have since been lifted. Mr. Bordan still has not been located. 

A spokesperson for Temple Health confirmed to Becker's that Mr. Bordan had been discharged and was no longer a patient at the time of his escape. 

Implications

Such events are not new; Becker's reported on a string of summer hospital escapes last year. 

In 2015, Kevin Tamez, an inmate advocacy consultant, told Newsweek that many prisoners plan hospital escapes far in advance. Due to the routine nature of medical visits and transports, it can be easy for officers to let their guards down. 

Inmate escapes are one of hospitals' many safety concerns as healthcare workers continue to face heightened acts of violence. 

"Incivility in society continues to come through our doors every single day," J. Stephen Jones, MD, CEO of Falls Church, Va.-based Inova Health, told Becker's last week.

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