An Alexandria deputy sheriff was fatally wounded yesterday by a handcuffed jail inmate who police said wrested away the officer's service revolver, then fled through the city's Old Town section before being captured 10 minutes later after a massive police chase.
Deputy William Gene Truesdale, 47, died about 5:30 p.m. at Alexandria Hospital, less than two hours after he was shot at point-blank range with his own gun as he was returning the prisoner to the jail from a court hearing, police said.
Police said the prisoner, Wilbert L. Evans, 34, who was being held in connection with a slaying and a string of robberies in North Carolina, shot himself once in the side with the deputy's gun before he surrendered to nearly two dozen officers who surrounded him. Evans' wound apparently was slight.
Evans, one of five people arrested last November by Alexandria police in connection with the robberies and slaying in North Carolina, had been returned to Alexandria yesterday to testify at an extradition hearing for Clifton Rudolph (Blood) Taylor, an alleged member of the robbery ring.
Taylor himself had escaped from the Alexandria jail last Thanksgiving by prying off a single bolt holding a jail door in place. He was recaptured by police.
The city's jail, located amid historic Old Town's expensive brick town houses, has often been criticized for poor security measures. The City Council last night agreed in principle on a land swap that would provide an 8.8-acre site for a new jail in Cameron Valley, a less densely populated part of the city.
Evans was one of three prisoners being led up the steps of the city jail yesterday at 3:25 p.m. when he grabbed Truesdale's .38-caliber revolver with his right hand and fired, according to sheriff's department supervisor Joseph Soos.
The other two prisoners, a man and a woman, apparently were not injured in the incident, Soos said, and their names were not released.
Evans' left hand was manacled to the man next to him, but his right hand was free, a customary practice when transporting prisoners, according to Soos.
Police said Truesdale tumbled backward down the steps. Evans then shot off the manacle and raced out of the jail courtyard, crossed South St. Asaph Street and ran through a development of $150,000 town houses.
The two shots police said were fired by Evans were heard by police officers in the adjoining headquarters and by sheriff's deputies, who followed Evans on foot through the town house development and across Washington Street, Old Town's main thoroughfare, police said.
Evans was stopped in a parking lot behind the First American Bank of Virginia building at 300 N. Washington St., police said.
According to police, Evans shot himself in the side as police pointed their handguns at him. One bullet went through a car in the lot.
Evans was then handcuffed and driven in a patrol car the two blocks back to police headquarters where police charged him last night with attempted escape.
Truesdale was the first Alexandria deputy killed in the line of duty, according to Robert O'Bannon, director of support services for the 65-member sheriff's department.
The use of one deputy to transport three prisoners, including an accused slayer, is standard procedure in Alexandria, according to Soos. "We would like to use two deputies to transport three prisoners, but we don't have the manpower," he said.
Deputies escorting prisoners outside the jail are required to carry weapons, although deputies are prohibited from carrying them inside the jail, he added.
Sheriff Mike Norris, whose department has custody of jail prisoners, said last night that manacling one prisoner to another is a "minimum" procedure. "Our general order suggests that all prisoners should be handcuffed from behind, but an individual deputy may use his discretion during transportation as to what kind of restraint should be used."
Truesdale, of the 3400 block of Dodge Park Road in Landover, was married and had a small child. He had been in the sheriff's department for eight years, according to official records. "He was an excellent deputy; it is very unfortunate this had to happen," O'Bannon said.
Evans is charged in North Carolina with murder and robbery in the 1978 slaying of Alton J. Collins, 34, who was shot once in the chest after a high-stakes card game, North Carolina police said after Evans' arrest last November.
After that arrest, Evans immediatly waived extradition and was returned to North Carolina.
Yesterday's hearing in Alexandria Circuit Court resulted in an order for Taylor's extradition to North Carolina to stand trial on burglary charges.