Nine of 13 Escapees Remain At Large, Considered Armed and Dangerous
BURNABY, British Columbia (AP) _ Nine of the 13 prisoners who escaped from Oakalla prison on New Year’s Day remained at large today as police kept up an intensive search for the men, who are considered armed and dangerous.
A television station, meanwhile, defended its interview with one of the escapees still at large and police voiced displeasure with the broadcast.
The British Columbia commissioner of corrections, Bernard Robinson, said Sunday night that an inquiry ordered by Premier Bill Vander Zalm was under way and a report could be expected by mid-month.
Only two junior guards were on duty when the prisoners, armed with a makeshift knife, escaped from the segregation unit - a concrete bunker under a disused cow barn on prison property. The men were brought there after disturbances Dec. 27 and 28.
On Saturday, BCTV aired an interview with Terry Hall, 23, at an undisclosed location. Hall said the 13 escaped because they were ″pushed to the limit″ by guards who turned fire hoses on them in their cells after the disturbances, which caused $500,000 in damage.
Hall, who said he would surrender after the weekend, said disturbances began after guards beat up a prisoner.
″You could smell the booze right on them (the guards),″ he said. ″You can only push people so far and I think this was pushing it right to the limit.″
Robinson said he was aware of no ″concrete evidence″ that some guards were drunk on duty during the holiday period, but ″those allegations have been made and they will be looked into.″
Staff Sgt. George Monk of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Hall’s being at large after his television appearance is ″a sore subject″ with police.
Monk said the interview was ″a little surprising,″ and would be discussed today by his superiors.
″He (Hall) had better not get involved in any violence before he makes his well-publicized surrender,″ said Monk. ″Then what? What if this went sour?″
Cameron Bell, news director for BCTV, defended the interview with Hall by saying the issue was not the station’s broadcast of it, but the fact that a number of escapees remained at large.
Bell suggested he had no problems with the ethics of airing the interview while police searched for Hall.
″I don’t see why it needs to be defended. He (Hall) had an allegation.″
Bell said the TV station has a ″responsibility to bring to the public information on matters of public importance.″
He said that as far as he knew the TV station was not contacted by police after the interview. ″We’re prepared if they have any questions,″ he said.
Another prisoner, interviewed inside the prison Sunday, also blamed guards for sparking the disturbances.
Prisoner Ken Jones said everything blew up after guards allegedly beat an inmate for talking in the chapel Dec. 27.
″(The prisoner) broke the rules by talking,″ said Jones. ″Normally the guards just say ‘stop talking.’ But this time they took him out .... It sparked the whole thing.″
Jones said the 30-year-old prisoner required 13 stitches to close his cuts.
Prison officials confirmed the prisoner was injured as a result of the church melee and that last Thursday he was moved to the maximum security prison at Agassiz, British Columbia.
Four of the escapees had a short taste of freedom.
Gary Dewhirst, 21, charged with first-degree murder, was caught New Year’s Day when he went to his parents’ home in Chilliwack, about 65 miles east of Oakalla.
Three others - Daniel Fetter, 18, Allen Isbister, 26, and Daniel Smith, 20, were picked up in a bar in nearby New Westminster later the same day.
The rest, including two who had escaped from Oakalla before, ″are all dangerous,″ said RCMP Staff Sgt. Gary Schauer.