By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A teen who escaped from police custody Saturday by crawling into the ceiling while awaiting medical treatment at Plains Regional Medical Center was recaptured about an hour later with the help of hospital staff, according to police.
Alerted to his whereabouts after the youth fell through the ceiling tiles, nurses and hospital security staff chased the 17-year-old boy into a field south of the hospital before he was caught and turned over to police.
It was his second failed escape attempt of the day, police said; the boy, who had an outstanding warrant for probation violation, ran from Clovis police during a traffic stop.
He was taken to the hospital for a precautionary exam after complaining he’d been hurt when he was knocked to the ground during his capture, the report said.
Handcuffed to a bed in an examination room with a guard stationed outside, the boy manipulated his handcuffs and slipped free. He changed into his clothes, climbed on top of a counter and into the ceiling, the report said.
Officers said they heard rustling in the ceiling and discovered him missing. He was in the ceiling about an hour, the report said.
John Sharp, security director for the hospital, said when the boy broke through the ceiling and made his dash, security personnel were in the process of reviewing camera footage, convinced he was still in the building.
Security supervisor Donny Sanchez caught the escapee, Sharp said.
“At about 4:30 p.m., (the youth) fell from the ceiling inside the ambulance entrance and started to run. Donny chased him down and was able to catch him and handcuff him,” he said.
“That’s not an everyday occurrence.”
Hospital staff told officers the youth did not have injuries from his arrest but they wanted to run tests for possible appendicitis. He was in an exam room awaiting those tests when he slipped away, the report said.
Sharp said it is standard protocol for inmates to be secured in exam rooms with guards outside the door.
“We do the best we can to give them privacy,” he said.
Clovis Police Lt. Patrick Whitney said the boy has attempted to escape from custody in previous dealings with law enforcement.
Whitney declined to identify the suspect because he is a minor.
The suspect was charged with two counts of resisting and or evading arrest, criminal damage of more than $1,000 (the ceiling) and larceny for leaving the hospital with an IV device still attached to his arm, the report said.