A prisoner who had just been treated for a broken wrist used his new cast as a weapon to overpower his Montgomery County police escort and escape, touching off a four-hour manhunt through a Northeast neighborhood that ended with his peaceful surrender yesterday.
Gregory Leon Price, 27, of no known address, surrendered about 4:45 p.m., 15 minutes after a D.C. police negotiator made telephone contact with him inside an apartment at 5011 Jay St. NE. Price was charged yesterday with assaulting a police officer and kidnaping.
The chaotic events began about 4 a.m. yesterday after a fight broke out at Price's girlfriend's apartment in Silver Spring. Officers, who said Price was intoxicated and had to be subdued, found that there were 11 warrants outstanding for Price's arrest on breaking and entering, theft, larceny and other charges in Montgomery and the District, according to Sgt. Harry Geehreng, a Montgomery police spokesman.
When Price complained of pain in his left arm, Montgomery police officer Gerald A. Barron drove Price in a police car to the emergency room of Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, where his fractured wrist was placed in a cast, Geehreng said.
Because of the cast, Barron was unable to handcuff Price as they were leaving the hospital shortly after noon, Geehreng said. Barron placed the prisoner in leg irons, strapped him in the front seat with a seat belt and began driving, Geehreng said.
While still in the hospital parking lot, Geehreng said, Price struck Barron on the head with the cast and grabbed the dazed officer's .38-caliber pistol. Price removed the leg irons after demanding the key and -- at gunpoint -- ordered Barron to switch off the car's police radio and forced the officer to drive to Northeast, Geehreng said. Barron radioed for help at 1:04 p.m., after Price got out of the car at the corner of 52nd and Hayes streets NE and fled, police said.
For nearly four hours yesterday, police cordoned off several blocks in the Deanwood neighborhood of Northeast. At least 12 families were evacuated from the four-story brick building where Price's family lives and where Price apparently hid out, moving from apartment to apartment. In the tree-lined neighborhood of single-family homes surrounding the apartment, dozens of residents were kept away while heavily armed police officers scoured the area.
A police negotiator finally made contact with Price about 4:30 p.m. after officers tossed a portable telephone into Apartment 11, where he was holed up. Police would not disclose what they said, but Price surrendered 15 minutes later.
"Negotiations are always the critical part of any barricade situation," said Capt. Robert White, commander of the D.C. police department's elite Emergency Response Team, which handles barricade situations. "It's a lot more sophisticated than what you see on 'Hill Street Blues.' "
Montgomery police regulations recommend transporting prisoners in a van, but a lone officer is allowed to take a prisoner in a squad car if the prisoner is kept within sight and strapped in a seat belt in the front seat. If handcuffs cannot be used, leg irons or body shackles are required "when transporting an unruly prisoner or those deemed likely to escape," according to the regulations.
Geehreng said yesterday that the department would have no immediate comment on Barron's performance but would review the incident. "And if there were any errors in judgment, any policy violations, they'll be dealt with," he said.
Barron, an 18-year veteran, was not injured.
Yesterday's escape was the second time in less than a week that a prisoner from a suburban jurisdiction in custody of county police had escaped in the District, causing havoc for city police and and concern for residents.
Last Wednesday, a Fairfax County jail inmate, Timothy W. Parker, escaped from the custody of a county officer at the D.C. Trailways bus station, 1105 First St. NE.
Parker is still at large.