Howard County authorities on Saturday called off the ground search for a prisoner who escaped Friday outside Maryland’s maximum-security psychiatric hospital in Jessup after saying they had found nothing to indicate he was still in the area.
Police said the investigation into the whereabouts of David M. Watson, 28, remains “active” as authorities follow up on leads, including in Wicomico County and Delaware, where Watson has ties.
Watson was being unloaded from a van at the hospital about 9:40 a.m. Friday, when he pushed a guard to the ground and ran into woods near Dorsey Run Road. Police said he had somehow gotten out of handcuffs and a waist chain, which were found near the van.
Officers searched the area around the hospital through Friday night and into Saturday morning, but no sightings had been reported as of late Saturday afternoon, police said.
A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered in his capture, police said.
Watson is serving a prison sentence of more than 100 years in Delaware for attempted murder, police said. He also has been charged with attempted murder of police officers in Wicomico County and was on his way to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for an evaluation in that case, said Howard police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.
Police said they had confirmed that Watson did not get either guards’ handgun, as they had been found in the van’s lock boxes. Watson was the only prisoner in the van, which had two guards when he escaped, police said.
“There is no indication at this time whether this was something that was planned in advance or an impulsive act in the moment,” Llewellyn said.
Guards chased Watson for a short period before he disappeared into the woods, she said.
Police said Watson was wearing an all white outfit with no emblems or markings, and officers found two pieces of his clothing in the woods. Howard police are being assisted by Maryland State Police, Anne Arundel County Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The ground search included dogs, helicopters with heat-seeking technology, and uniform and plainclothes officers.
Watson was convicted in 2013 in connection with firing a rifle into the home of a Delaware police officer, according to the Delaware News Journal. The report states that the allegations in the Wicomico case are similar.
Online court records in Maryland show he was found incompetent to stand trial in 2014.
Police released images of Watson showing tattoos between his eyes and under his right eye, as well as numerous tattoos on his arms and torso. A tattoo on the back of his neck says “evil.” He also has been known to wear glasses, police said. He is 5-feet-8 and 140 pounds.
Llewellyn said it’s unclear if he’s still in Howard County or if he’s left the immediate area.
Howard County police said anyone who sees Watson should call 911.
“We just want everyone to be aware and on the lookout,” Llewellyn said.