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Two men escape Detention Center


Two men escaped through a third-story window in a medium-security portion of the Baltimore City Detention Center overnight -- the first escape since state government took over the beleaguered former City Jail three years ago.

Commissioner LaMont W. Flanagan, who oversees the detention center for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, identified the escapees as John A. Wagner, 21, of the first block of S. Monroe Street, and Edward G. Cooper, 32, of the 800 block of Broadway.

Mr. Wagner, also known as John Hicks, was awaiting trial on charges related to the armed robbery of a business. He had been held since Aug. 19, 1993, in lieu of posting $150,000 bail.

Mr. Cooper, who also goes by the name of Robert Williams, was awaiting trial on charges related to armed robbery and assault. Mr. Cooper was being held in lieu of $180,000 bail and had been in the detention center since April 15.

Details of the cases against the two were not immediately available.

The two apparently lowered themselves to the Constitution Street side of the Jail Industries Building, a former Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. building transformed into dormitory jail housing.

Mr. Flanagan said he had been told the two escaped through a third-story window with a 70-foot rope, fashioned out of bedsheets, that was long enough to reach the ground. Mr. Flanagan said construction trailers lining that side of the building could have made the escape easier.

State Police were notified of the escape about 5:30 a.m., and arrest warrants were issued for the two.

The detention center remained on lockdown today as the incident was investigated, meaning inmates could not leave their cells for any reason.

The commissioner told a press conference that a search of the dormitory yielded two hack-saw blades near Mr. Wagner's bed.

The detention center complex, with an average daily population in June of over 3,300, is chronically overcrowded. A 1993 court order dictating housing procedures there puts its operating capacity at about 2,900.

Despite crowded conditions, the Maryland Correctional Union, which represents some correctional officers at the former jail, recently has complained that Mr. Flanagan has left key posts unmanned rather than put more officers on the state payroll.

He declined to say how many guards were on duty at the time of the escape, but acknowledged the number was smaller than would be on duty in daylight hours.

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