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Prisoner who escaped from Maryland hospital dies following shootout

Thursday, January 3, 2008

LAUREL, Md. -- An inmate who escaped from a hospital Wednesday, briefly taking a worker hostage and stealing two getaway cars, was captured and killed by police hours later in a cemetery, authorities said.

Kelvin Poke, 45, overpowered guards at Laurel Regional Hospital and fired several shots before fleeing, authorities said. Once outside, he shot out the window of a car and drove away, dumping the driver, said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley.

He was captured hours later about 30 miles away. Officers had tailed a suspicious vehicle -- a white Ford Explorer with flat tires -- into a cemetery shortly after 3 p.m. Poke got out of the vehicle and opened fire on police, who then shot back, police said.

Poke was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Maj. Joseph McCann of Prince George's County police.

A woman who was in the vehicle with Poke was not seriously injured, and police believe she may have been a victim.

Poke fled the hospital Wednesday morning, two days after he was admitted while complaining of chest pains. He was wearing leg shackles but not handcuffs on the hospital's fourth floor when he overpowered several prison guards and took two guns, apparently dumping one before fleeing.

Poke fired at his shackles inside the hospital and overpowered a hospital security guard who responded to the noise, authorities said. He held the guard hostage as he made his way to the lobby, then fled alone.

Shipley said Poke left the hospital wearing Department of Corrections-issued jeans and white socks, but no shirt and no shoes.

The first car Poke used to flee was later found on fire in northeast Washington, D.C., and another vehicle was carjacked nearby, police said. The driver of the first car was shot in the head, but was expected to survive, authorities said.

Access to the hospital was limited Wednesday, but it remained open, Shipley said. Three schools nearby were locked down as authorities hunted for Poke, who was serving life plus 40 years at the Jessup Correctional Institution for kidnapping, carjacking and robbery.

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.

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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