Another Texas Escape

A Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison guard from the Middleton Unit watches for suspicious vehicles near the Robertson Unit, in Abilene, Texas, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2002. Convicted murderer John William Roland, 33, overpowered a correctional officer at the maximum-security prison and escaped from the state penitentiary Sunday. The two adjacent units have both been in lock-down since the escape.
A convicted killer overpowered a correctional officer and escaped from a state penitentiary Sunday.

John William Roland, 33, took Sgt. Wesley Hurt's uniform, handcuffed and beat him before escaping in Hurt's pickup truck about 4:45 a.m., said Larry Todd, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He said there was no weapon in the truck.

Hurt was treated in a hospital for cuts and bruises and released Sunday. He told investigators Roland had threatened to kill him.

Todd said Roland has been serving a life sentence for murder since 1993 in Abilene, about 170 miles west of Dallas.

Roland was serving a life sentence for fatally shooting a former roommate, Thomas Columbus Barrett of Hurst. He had been in prison since May of 1993.

Todd said Roland asked to speak with Hurt in a secluded area of the prison after breakfast and then beat him in the head and legs.

"An officer out at the front of the unit noticed the pickup leaving the premises, but thought it was not unusual since it appeared to be driven by a correctional officer," Todd said.

The prison is conducting an internal investigation.

Roland's father, Johnny Roland Jr., said his son had talked to him about escaping, but thought he was joking.

"He told me how easy it would be just to overpower a guard and put on his uniform and walk out the gate," Johnny Roland Jr. told WFAA TV in Dallas.

Roland's father said he expected his son to "turn into a hermit" in the woods somewhere.

The escape from the state facility follows a string of county jail breaks.

Two convicted murderers and two others awaiting trial on murder charges escaped Jan. 28 from the Montague County Jail by overpowering a female guard and fleeing in her sport utility vehicle.

They were taken back into custody Feb. 6 at a convenience store near Ardmore, Okla., after a nine-day manhunt.

On Feb. 5, two men broke out of the Hood County Jail in Granbury. They were captured five days later in Fort Worth.

According to the state jail commission records, 56 inmates broke out of county jails in Texas last year, including 15 from maximum-security or medium-security facilities and 29 from minimum-security cells or prisoner hospital wards.

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