By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Second escape by an inmate from Maryland hospital prompts questions about prisoner handling
Hospital Shooting M 5079155
A Maryland State Police helicopter searches the area around Laurel Regional Hospital where prison inmate Kelvin Poke escaped during a hospital visit in Laurel, Md. on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008. Poke was serving life plus forty years at Jessup Correctional Institution for kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery. - photo by Associated Press
    LAUREL, Md. — A brazen escape by a prisoner being treated at a hospital — the second such escape in as many months — has prompted an investigation about how inmates are handled outside prison walls.
    Kelvin Poke, 45, overpowered five guards at Laurel Regional Hospital and fired several shots Wednesday before stealing two getaway cars. He was cornered hours later in a cemetery by police and killed in a shootout, authorities said.
    Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the agency’s internal investigative unit would review whether guards followed proper procedures.
    Investigators are ‘‘thoroughly reviewing every element of today’s terrible incident to determine what if anything could have been done — or could be done in the future — to prevent this from happening,’’ Vernarelli said.
    In November, a prisoner escaped from the same hospital after taking a state trooper’s gun and firing shots. He was captured hours later following an intense search.
    Poke, who was serving life in prison for kidnapping and other crimes, told his guards he was having chest pains. They took him from his maximum-security cell to the hospital, where he made his break.
    Once outside, he shot out the window of a car and drove away, said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley.
    The car was later found on fire in northeast Washington and another vehicle was carjacked nearby, police said. The driver of the car was shot in the head, but was expected to survive, authorities said.
    Poke was discovered about 30 miles away from the Laurel hospital about seven hours after his escape.
    Officers tailed a suspicious vehicle — a white Ford Explorer with flat tires — into a cemetery shortly after 3 p.m. Poke got out of the vehicle and opened fire on police, who then shot back and killed him, police said.
    A woman had been in the Explorer with Poke, and she was being treated for minor injuries, authorities said. Police believe she did not go with him willingly.
    When Poke fled, he was wearing leg shackles but not handcuffs on the hospital’s fourth floor. He overpowered several prison guards and took two guns, apparently dumping one before fleeing.
    Poke fired at his shackles inside the hospital and overpowered a hospital security guard who responded to the noise, authorities said. He held the guard hostage as he made his way to the lobby, then fled alone.
    Access to the hospital was limited Wednesday but it remained open, Shipley said. Three schools nearby were locked down as authorities hunted for Poke, who was serving life plus 40 years at the Jessup Correctional Institution for kidnapping, carjacking and robbery.
    In the November escape, inmate Kamara Mohamed, 39, had been taken to the Laurel hospital after complaining of chest pains while being held at the state police barracks in College Park on car theft charges.
    He is accused of attacking a trooper guarding him at the hospital, grabbing her weapon and fleeing. Mohamed was found hiding inside a construction trailer a few blocks from the Laurel hospital.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter