Virginia prisoner who allegedly escaped hospital with gun is captured

The Virginia prisoner who allegedly escaped from a hospital early Tuesday morning after he overpowered a security guard and stole his gun was captured in Washington, D.C., authorities announced.

The prisoner, identified as Wossen Assaye, was considered armed and dangerous, police said.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said a Washington, D.C. resident helped “take a violent felon off the streets of our region” after seeing postings on social media and identifying Assaye. The resident then called the Metropolitan Police department, which made the arrest.

Assaye, 42, of Arlington, was being held on federal bank robbery charges.

At around 3 a.m. Tuesday, Assaye got into a struggle at the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Fairfax County, with two security guards from a private contractor hired by the U.S. Marshals service to watch over him.

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    He was able to overpower a female security guard and take her weapon, according to U.S. Marshal Bobby Mathieson.

    Assaye then confronted a male guard and was fired upon, but a round discharged from the weapon did not injure anyone, Mathieson added.

    Assaye escaped the hospital through a stairwell. The facility was placed on a brief lockdown that was lifted later in the morning.

    Roessler said that in Fairfax County police custody, a prisoner would typically be handcuffed, but he didn't know what federal procedures are.

    The escape prompted road closures for several blocks around the hospital, which is located just outside the Capital Beltway. Dozens of police cars surrounded the hospital and there were officers with rifles stationed around the area. A police helicopter circled overhead.

    Assaye ran to a neighborhood near the hospital and hid in the trunk of resident’s car, Roessler said. When the car owner came outside to get into the car to commute to work, Assaye kicked down the back seat and hijacked the vehicle, he added.

    County police spokeswoman Shelley Broderick said about three hours later, Assaye had abandoned the car after crashing it and carjacked a second car, a 2008 Gray Hyundai Elantra, which has yet to be found.

    At 10 a.m., police were searching Annandale neighborhoods with helicopter and heavily armed officers. In one neighborhood, Spence Limbocker said he heard a helicopter, went outside and saw a massive police presence.

    "They told me to get back in the house and lock all my doors. ... It was a little scary," Limbocker said.

    A man who identified himself as Assaye's father answered the phone at an Arlington home early Tuesday, but declined to speak to The Associated Press as a voice in the background told him to hang up.

    A Virginia Parole Board document dating from July 2012 said that Assaye had committed a robbery and at least two burglaries. The board said that Assaye was a "serious risk to the community."

    Court documents filed Tuesday morning charged Assaye with escape.

    He was arrested March 20 charged with a robbery at Apple Federal Credit Union in Alexandria. But in a court document, an FBI agent suggests Assaye is responsible for a string of 12 bank robberies in northern Virginia over the last year and a half.

    Brooke Rupert, a public defender who was representing Assaye in the robbery case, declined to comment Tuesday morning.

    Assaye had been booked into the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria on the federal charges March 21, Alexandria Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said in a statement. On Friday, he attempted suicide and was taken to the hospital just outside the Capital Beltway for treatment, she said. Alexandria deputy sheriffs maintained custody of Assaye for the first 24 hours before turning him over to security officers contracted by the U.S. Marshals, she said.

    In court documents about the robberies, the FBI agent said the robber seen in surveillance photographs and video recordings is "physically similar" in the dozen robberies that end with the robbery of the Apple Federal Credit Union.

    In all, the banks were robbed of approximately $32,000. In most cases, the agent said the robber entered the bank with a cellphone to his ear, demanded money and fled with cash on a bicycle.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report 

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