Idaho prison inmate escapes from hospital in blaze of gunfire

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) -An Idaho maximum-security prison inmate, assisted by an outside accomplice, escaped from a Boise hospital early on Wednesday in a hail of gunfire that left three corrections officers wounded, one of them critically, sparking an intense manhunt.

Skylar Meade, 31, a documented member of the Aryan Knights white supremacist gang serving time for aggravated battery, was last seen fleeing Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in a car with the accomplice, Boise Police Chief Ron Winegar said.

The man suspected of opening fire on Meade's correction department escorts and driving away with him from the hospital was initially unknown to authorities but was later identified in a police bulletin as Nicholas Umphenour.

Meade had been housed under administrative segregation, a form of solitary confinement for inmates deemed especially dangerous, at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution near Kuna, Idaho, according to state Correction Department chief Josh Tewalt.

Meade was taken to the hospital on Tuesday night for treatment of what Tewalt called "self-injurious behavior" that prison staff deemed serious enough to warrant emergency medical care.

At about 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday, as three corrections officers were preparing to transfer him back to prison, an individual waiting at the hospital's emergency department opened fire on the guards, wounding two of them.

One was listed in critical but stable condition, while the other was hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

A third correctional staffer was slightly injured in the ensuing pandemonium by gunfire from a Boise police officer called to the scene, authorities said.

By then, Meade and his accomplice had already made their getaway, Winegar told reporters at a news briefing hours later.

The police chief said law enforcement agencies throughout the state and surrounding region were searching for the two fugitives and anyone else who may have been involved in what he said was a planned, coordinated attack.

Tewalt called the breakout "unprecedented" in nature.

Authorities issued a bulletin with photos of the getaway vehicle, a gray four-door sedan, and pictures of Meade, whose face is tattooed with the numerals 1 and 11, which Winegar said stand for letters A and K, the abbreviation of Aryan Knights.

A photo of Umphenour, appearing with head shaved and bushy beard, was later circulated with a warrant for his arrest on two charges of aggravated battery against law enforcement and one charge of aiding and abetting an escape.

Authorities did not say how Umphenour and Meade knew each other but they appeared to be roughly the same age.

Meade had been incarcerated since 2016 and was serving a prison sentence that was scheduled to run until October 2036, becoming eligible for parole in 2026.

The police chief said authorities would welcome any tips that might lead to the arrest of the two fugitives while warning members of the public to keep their distance from both men.

"They are dangerous, they are armed and they have shown a propensity for violence," he said.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)