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Escaped convict caught near Rugby

By Staff | Jun 28, 2013

A federal prisoner was captured at Gun Lake south of Rugby on the evening of June 21, three hours after escaping from the Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center.

Wesley E. Brown III, 34, scaled the fence in the correctional facility’s recreation yard around 3:30 p.m., according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Brown had been in federal custody at HACTC since April on a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Authorities were first alerted to the escape when Brown was spotted near the Rugby Golf Course as he fled south from HACTC.

Mike Santjer was golfing with Bob Wilmot on the eastern edge of the course when they spotted Brown.

“We were finishing up golfing on hole No. 7,” Santjer said. “He came running down Lynn Meyer’s driveway. It looked like all he had on was a brown bath robe and flip flops. He ran through their driveway, across Highway 2 and over a hill.”

Santjer called Meyers asking if he had any house guests.

“I contacted Lynn,” Santjer said. “I didn’t know if he stole something out of his garage or what was going on.”

Meyers got on his four-wheeler and made an attempt to confront Brown, but when he knew he was spotted in a field south of town, the escaped prisoner got on the ground.

“When he saw me he laid down in the weeds and that’s when I called the police,” Meyers said. “The response from the city police and the sheriff’s department was just super. The police didn’t know a person was missing and they just went on a citizen’s report.”

Once police realized they were chasing an escaped prisoner, the search intensified as law enforcement agents poured in to help local authorities.

The U.S. Marshals Service was notified around 4 p.m. and deputies from Minot and Bismarck responded and were joined by officers from sheriff’s offices in Bottineau, Benson, McHenry and Rolette counties. The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol joined and the North Dakota Highway Patrol added air support from an airplane.

Brown was captured at 6:31 p.m. four miles south of Rugby and just east of Highway 3, according to federal agents.

Brown was in Gun Lake trying to take cover before turning himself in.

At a meeting of the HACTC board on June 27, the situation was reviewed as board members were briefed on what went wrong for the convict to escape.

Security Captain Joey Cotton said the breakdown in procedure started when the inmates weren’t patted down before going into the yard. He said protocol is to then announce the number of inmates in the yard and when they are brought back in, an officer is supposed to go into the yard and direct the inmates back in.

“We learn by mistakes,” Cotton said. “Every policy we have or procedure we have is because somebody made a mistake. We saw we were lax on following the exact proper procedure for going out to rec and bringing them back in.”

Cotton said he’d met with 3 of his 4 crews to go over what went wrong that led to the escape.

He said that the concertina wire which goes over the fence was repaired and the outdoor recreation area has been temporarily closed, “until this is all rectified and we feel confident enough to let them all go outside.”

The board members showed concern that the situation would be fixed to avoid future escapes.

Cotton said the main issue was complacency and not following the guidelines already in place, although he added two more cameras are being added to the yard.

“The staff member that didn’t pat them in on the way in is one of the top staff members,” Cotton said. “It’s unfortunate these things happen.”

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