March 31, 2015 / 9:16 AM / 5 years ago

Armed prisoner who fled Virginia hospital captured in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An armed prisoner who fled a suburban Washington hospital with a guard’s gun on Tuesday was recaptured in the U.S. capital after a nine-hour manhunt, police said.

The prisoner, accused bank robber Wossen Assaye, 42, apparently freed himself from shackles, seized a gun from a private contract guard and fled the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Virginia, at about 3 a.m., authorities said.

Pursued by several hundred state, federal and local officers, Assaye carjacked two vehicles before a bystander in Washington recognized him from social media and called local police, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler told a news conference.

“We’re glad that he’s in custody and no one was gravely harmed in this event,” Roessler said.

Assaye had been held in Alexandria, Virginia, and was taken to the hospital about 15 miles (24 km) west of Washington on Friday after a suicide attempt, said U.S. Marshal Robert Mathieson.

Assaye overpowered one of two private security guards early on Tuesday and took her gun. A male guard fired one shot but no one was injured.

Assaye used the female guard as a shield before fleeing wearing only a hospital gown, Mathieson said. He added that authorities were investigating how securely Assaye had been shackled.

Assaye is charged with the March 20 robbery of the Apple Federal Credit Union in Alexandria. An affidavit in U.S. District Court said he fled the bank on a bicycle with about $1,800.

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He is suspected in 11 other bank robberies in northern Virginia. Assaye, who is on probation, was in prison from 2000 to 2013 for burglary and robbery convictions, the affidavit said.

Roessler said Assaye threatened two drivers and seized their cars. The first car was found abandoned with the guard’s weapon inside, and the second vehicle has not been found, he said.

After his arrest, Assaye made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on charges of bank robbery and escape. Assaye, who was shackled and escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals, waived his detention hearing, a spokesman for prosecutors said.

Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Walker Simon, Susan Heavey, Lisa Von Ahn and Eric Beech

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