- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — A hospitalized state prison inmate shot and critically wounded the correctional officer guarding his room yesterday, then used the officer’s gun to force a cabbie to drive him on a chase that ended with the inmate’s arrest, state police and prison officials said.

The 44-year-old officer was in critical condition at Washington County hospital, where the attack occurred at about 5 a.m., authorities said. They said he was shot in the face but gave no other information about his injuries.

“He’s fighting for his life,” Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a state Division of Correction spokeswoman, said.

Prison officials said the officer is from Martinsburg, W.Va., but they declined to name him, citing his family’s request for privacy. He is a four-year veteran of the Maryland prison system, married with four children and a stepson, prison officials said.

Corrections Commissioner Frank C. Sizer Jr. identified the inmate as Brandon Morris, 20, who was serving an eight-year sentence at the nearby, medium-security Roxbury Correctional Institution for assault, robbery and handgun violations in Baltimore.

Morris was being moved yesterday afternoon from the state police barrack in Hagerstown to a prison and has not yet been charged in the attack, Maryland State Police Sgt. Thornnie Rouse said.

Mr. Sizer said Morris was admitted to the hospital Wednesday for an undisclosed medical condition.

Department policy in such situations requires that an inmate wear either handcuffs or leg restraints and be secured to the bed, Maj. Doggett said. She said she thinks the policy was being followed in Morris’ case.

“The normal procedure is that he is attached to the hospital bed with the restraint device,” Mr. Sizer said.

He said he didn’t know how Morris got free from the bed and obtained the officer’s gun.

The officer was working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, Mr. Sizer said.

The officer had reported at the start of his shift and again at 2:55 a.m. that everything was in order. The shooting was reported by a hospital employee, Mr. Sizer said.

Sgt. Rouse said police were alerted by a 911 call at about 5:15 a.m. They learned that the inmate had carjacked a taxi cab outside the hospital emergency room after failing to get car keys from a woman visiting another patient.

Police pursued the cab at about 40 mph on U.S. 11 to State Line, Pa., about 5 miles north of Hagerstown, where the vehicle crashed and Morris fled on foot back into Maryland, Sgt. Rouse said.

Police arrested Morris in an industrial park north of Hagerstown, he said.

“We credit the taxi cab driver with maintaining an open mike, if you will, and allowed officers to hear the chase route,” Sgt. Rouse said.

The cabdriver wasn’t hurt in the crash, Sgt. Rouse said.

Hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said patient care wasn’t affected by the incident.

The attack came three weeks after 17 inmates assaulted three officers with chairs and the guards’ pepper spray at the maximum-security North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland.

One of those officers is recovering from a head injury that required surgery and a hospital stay.

The Roxbury Correctional Institution is a 721-bed medium-security prison for men that opened in 1983. It is near two other state prisons in Hagerstown, the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown and the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

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