Trying to figure out how a handcuffed prisoner escaped from the back of a locked patrol car, Baltimore police have another mystery on their hands: Why was the man wearing old, police-issued body armor?
Investigators have determined that a bullet-resistant vest worn by the suspect -- who escaped during his arrest April 25 and is being sought -- was formerly worn by a city police officer.
Both questions appeared to involve missteps -- officers leaving their prisoner unattended in the police car, and a protective vest stored at police headquarters turning up on the street.
The incident began about 3: 15 a.m. April 25 when Deborah Williams, 32, called police to report a domestic assault at her home in the 1500 block of Northwick Road in Northeast Baltimore.
Officers Damion Walford and Andrew Montz responded and arrested Williams' boyfriend, Enoch Burress, 31, and charged him with assault. Police said they confiscated the vest he was wearing.
The officers cuffed Burress' hands behind his back and sat him in the back of a patrol car that has a Plexiglas shield separating the front and back seats.
Police said the man gave the officers a fake name. Montz went to the house to get the suspect's personal papers to learn his identity, and Walford followed to give the victim a domestic assault pamphlet, police said. When a prisoner transport wagon arrived, the officers discovered the suspect had fled.
Maj. Arthur Smith, commander of Northeastern District, said Burress, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 165 pounds, apparently slipped through a 12-by-15-inch sliding door in the shield and escaped out the front door of the cruiser. Rear doors on police cars open only from the outside.
"Certainly there are things that should have been done differently," said Smith. Prisoners are supposed to be watched at all times. Investigators have not determined whether the sliding door was locked.
In addition, department spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said police are trying to determine how the suspect obtained police property. He said the vest was used several years ago and has been replaced twice by other models.
The Police Department just upgraded its vests again and sold its used ones for $3,000 to a Miami company on condition they be sold to police departments overseas.
"The vest that was found on the suspect was in fact one of the vests that was in storage," Weinhold said. "Exactly how that individual came into possession of the vest is being investigated."
Police have reported no leads in finding Burress, who also has been charged with escape and theft of police handcuffs.
Pub Date: 5/02/98