Sheriff: Inmate faked injury, planned to escape

A California inmate who terrorized a preschool after stealing a deputy's gun during an escape had faked a shoulder injury as part of his plan, authorities said.

With 24-year-old Maurice Ainsworth back behind bars, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said he believes the inmate knew he would be unshackled during a medical exam at a hospital, since nothing metal is allowed in an MRI scanner.

Ainsworth repeatedly elbowed Deputy Cathy Bramanti in the head and bit her index finger as she tried to re-shackle him after the Monday exam, Wowak said.

"It is my belief that he probably planned this," Wowak said at a news conference late Tuesday.

Before being recaptured, the escapee burst into a preschool, where the owner says he pointed a gun at the head of a teacher caring for several infants.

He demanded the teacher's keys, but an anti-theft device prevented him from starting her car.

"I was panicked. I drove like a maniac to get over here," said The Secret Garden Too preschool owner Cathy LaTorre, who said she was just down the street when the school was stormed. "I was so worried."

By the time she arrived, police were not letting anyone into the school, where about 30 children were in attendance at the time. No one was injured in the incident.

Ainsworth was transported to Santa Cruz County jail following an overnight hospital stay for an undisclosed condition, sheriff's Sgt. Dan Campos said.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that deputies believe Ainsworth ingested medications at a home he broke into Monday while fleeing police.

The sheriff said Deputy Bramanti had chased Ainsworth as he fled the hospital, but he stole her Taser stun gun and handgun as they fought.

"She just didn't give up," Wowak said.

Bramanti was treated and released Monday from Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, the same hospital where the escape took place.

As the escapee ran, he allegedly fired a shot at a woman who chased him, missing her by two feet, the sheriff said.

The Sheriff's Department planned to review procedures that currently allow an inmate to be transported out of jail guarded by only one deputy.

"Obviously there needs to be changes if there's any way (inmates) can get away," Wowak said.

Ainsworth was being held for investigation of offenses ranging from attempted homicide and burglary to battery on a peace officer and kidnapping, Campos said.

"There's just a laundry list of charges," he said.

Prior to the escape, Ainsworth had been in jail accused of committing a home invasion robbery.