published Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Police: Last escaped inmates in Oklahoma recaptured

A prisoner transport van is parked in Weatherford Okla., Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013. Eight inmates being transported by a private prison company escaped in the transport van in western Oklahoma on Tuesday.
A prisoner transport van is parked in Weatherford Okla., Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013. Eight inmates being transported by a private prison company escaped in the transport van in western Oklahoma on Tuesday.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WEATHERFORD, Okla. — The last two of eight inmates who allegedly escaped a transport van in western Oklahoma when guards stopped to take at least one ill prisoner to a hospital and left the keys in the vehicle, police said.

Lester Burns and Michael Coleman were back in custody late Tuesday afternoon, according to a police dispatcher who referred questions to Assistant Police Chief Louis Flowers

Flowers did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The inmates were from jails in the western and northern United States and were being transported among agencies in the same regions of the country, said Police Chief Byron Cox.

One or two of the inmates fell ill near Weatherford, which is about an hour west of Oklahoma City on Interstate 40, Cox said. His assistant, Flowers, said the inmates had been left in a locked compartment inside the van.

“Two of the prisoners kicked the partition out and were able to gain access to the front of the van. ... The keys were still in the van as far as we know, and it was still running,” Flowers said.

Cox said the inmates stopped about one mile down the road and two ran away. Dogs and helicopters were summoned to aid in the search, and officers went door-to-door during the afternoon, Flowers said.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said officers recovered a 12-gauge shotgun that had been inside the vehicle. No injuries were reported.

No details were available about what the inmates may have been accused or convicted of doing. Asked what he knows about the inmates, Cox said: “Not much right now. We’re still trying to get that right now from the transport company.”

Prisoner Transportation Services of Nashville, Tenn., acknowledged it was moving the prisoners but said it could not comment further because the investigation was ongoing.

Critics of private prison transportation companies have complained that they are poorly regulated.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford was locked down for about two hours while police searched for the two inmates. The school lifted the lock down just before 4 p.m., KOKH television reported.

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