Officials: Prison Guard on Break When Inmate Fled Maryland Hospital

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A prison guard who accompanied an inmate to the hospital was taking a break when the prisoner overpowered the other guard assigned to him, stole his gun and made a brazen escape that ended in his death, police said Thursday.

The inmate, Kelvin Poke, managed to wrestle a .38-caliber handgun from the guard in the room with him Wednesday morning, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said as more details of the short-lived getaway emerged.

Poke briefly took a hospital security guard hostage, carjacked a vehicle and fled into Washington. Police cornered him in a suburban Maryland cemetery and killed him when he fired on officers.

Inmates in hospitals are guarded by two officers, one armed, one not, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The unarmed officer is supposed to stay near the prisoner while the armed officer is to remain within sight of the prisoner but at a distance to prevent an inmate from seizing the guard's gun. The guard on break Wednesday was unarmed.

Poke was serving life plus 40 years at the Jessup Correctional Institution for kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. He had been taken to Laurel Regional Hospital late Monday complaining of chest pains.

Corrections officials planned to review the escape, but a spokesman said Wednesday there was nothing to suggest the guards had not followed procedure.

When Poke made his move, a guard from another two-man team monitoring another inmate at the hospital responded to the commotion, and Poke also seized his weapon by holding the handgun to the guard's head, Shipley said. Poke was not handcuffed at the time, and used one of the guns to shoot off his leg shackles.

A similar escape occurred at the hospital in November, when a prisoner seized a state trooper's gun and fired shots. He was captured hours later following an intense search.

On Wednesday, Poke shot out the window of a car waiting to pick up a worker at the hospital, slightly injuring the driver. He forced the driver out and drove away.

The car was found on fire in northeast Washington and another vehicle was carjacked nearby, police 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 pickup with flat tires — into a cemetery shortly after 3 p.m. Poke got out of the truck and shot at police, who returned fire, 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.

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.