Armed Prisoner Escapes From Md. Hospital

In this undated photo provided by the Maryland Department of Corrections, Kelvin Polk is shown. Polk, a Maryland prisoner broke loose and fled from a hospital Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008, and there were reports that shots were fired in the building but no reports of injuries, police said.
AP/Maryland Dept. of Corrections
An inmate serving life in prison for kidnapping and other crimes escaped from a hospital Wednesday with a guard's gun, then drove off in a vehicle after shooting the driver in the head, police said.

Kelvin Poke, 45, overpowered several corrections guards at the hospital and took two guns from them, apparently leaving one weapon behind, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said. Poke then fled the building and stole a Toyota Camry after shooting out the car's window and hitting the driver in the head.

The driver was expected to survive, and was in good condition, Shipley said.

Laurel Regional Hospital was placed on lockdown as police searched the area for the prisoner, who police believed was still armed, Betts said. Three schools near the hospital also were on lockdown, said Tanzi West, a spokeswoman for Prince George's County Public Schools.

Police said Poke was serving life plus 40 years at the Jessup Correctional Institution for kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. Poke was admitted to the hospital Monday after complaining of chest pains, police said.

Police said Poke overpowered several corrections guards Wednesday morning on the hospital's fourth floor, taking the two guns. Poke then fired several shots as he tried to break free of shackles around his legs. A hospital security guard who responded to the sound of gunfire also was overpowered by Poke, who forced him down to the first floor so that he could escape.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said there was nothing to indicate the guards failed to follow proper procedure.

"There's no reason to think anything was amiss," Vernarelli said.

Poke fled the hospital in a blue 1993 Toyota Camry, with Maryland tags WVC433, Shipley said.

The hospital confirmed that there was "an incident" Wednesday, but would not provide any details, citing the police investigation.

James Graham, 54, of Waldorf, said his wife was being examined for heart troubles at Laurel Regional Hospital when a nurse approached between 8:15 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. and told them that the hospital was on lockdown, reports The Baltimore Sun.

"That was it, I don't know how he got out," Graham said.

In November, a prisoner escaped from the Laurel hospital after taking a state trooper's gun and firing shots. He was captured hours later following an intense search.

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