A man charged with attempted bank robbery and kidnaping escaped early yesterday after shooting a deputy sheriff who was guarding him at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Alexandria. Police said he was recaptured less than a mile away after stealing a car and attempting to abduct its owner and apparently becoming lost.
James H. Tinsley, a 32-year-old Tidewater Virginia man, was placed in the Alexandria jail without bond following the incident, which officials said began shortly after 4 a.m. when he wrested a pistol from Deputy Sheriff William Johnson. Tinsley was hospitalized recovering from a gunshot wound in a leg that he allegedly suffered a week earlier after an attempt to rob a bank at a shopping center.
Johnson had released Tinsley from handcuffs so the prisoner could use the bathroom, according to a sheriff's spokesman, when Tinsley grabbed the weapon and fired four shots.
One of the shots struck Johnson, but was deflected by the bulletproof vest he was wearing, according to the spokesman. Johnson was treated for injuries described as minor.
Tinsley then leaped about five feet from a window to a grassy knoll and ran from the hospital, police said. About an hour later, Martha P. Smith, 60, preparing to drive to her job with a computer company, was unlocking her white Toyota Corolla in the parking lot of her West Braddock Road apartment building near the hospital when Tinsley approached.
"He was crouching by my door, all I could see was his eyes and a dark green shirt," Smith recalled. "He had something in his hand, but it was covered with a handkerchief. He said, 'Give me the keys. Don't say anything, just give me the keys.' "
Smith said she handed over the keys and reached back into the car to get her purse and lunch bag. "He let me get my things and then he said, 'You're going with me. Don't scream,' " Smith recounted.
"Well," she said, "I commenced screaming and running then, and I hollered all the way back to my apartment."
Tinsley started the Toyota but, according to police, took a wrong turn and headed back toward the hospital, finally abandoning it at a dead-end inside another apartment complex in the same neighborhood.
"He must not have known where he was going," remarked Undersheriff Richard Ruscak.
About three hours later, as rush hour traffic was at its peak, a police officer spotted Tinsley in a stand of bamboo at the busy intersection of Van Dorn Street and West Braddock Road near the Shirley Highway overpass.
Tinsley, who police said was still armed, surrendered and was taken to the jail, where he had been scheduled to be transferred yesterday after his hospital stay.
In the incident that resulted in Tinsley's arrest last week, police said he bolted from a savings and loan he was attempting to rob in the Bradlee Shopping Center after spotting police who were stationed in the parking lot.
Dragging an elderly bank customer to a car and firing a gun, Tinsley allegedly led police on a wild chase during which three police cars and a private auto were damaged before Tinsley wrecked the car he was driving in a roadside ditch. Tinsley allegedly shot himself in the leg in the incident.