Officer injured in prisoner escape attempt
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | January 10,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Kelley Staples is led into Rutland criminal court Tuesday by Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard to face charges related to an alleged escape attempt that left a sheriff’s lieutenant with bruised ribs.
Lt. Frank Wilk, a veteran with the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department, had just arrived at the Rutland jail with a detail of prisoners when one of the people in the back of his transport van kicked out a window and tried to run for it.
In the moments that followed, Wilk was able to catch and subdue the alleged escapee, 21-year-old Kelley E. Staples Jr., according to an affidavit written by Sgt. Richard Putnam with the Sheriff’s Department.
But Wilk suffered badly bruised ribs while trying to take the Danby man into custody Monday, and will be out of work for three to four weeks, according to Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard.
Wilk was treated at Rutland Regional Medical Center after Staples was returned to custody.
“He’s OK but he’s pretty bruised up,” Benard said.
Staples was one of four prisoners returning to the Rutland jail after hearings in the nearby Rutland criminal court Monday.
He was arrested earlier that day by Vermont State Police on 10 outstanding warrants for charges ranging from arson in the third degree to possession of stolen items. Benard said Staples is addicted to opiate drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers.
After a Rutland judge set bail for him at $10,000, Staples was being returned to the Rutland jail.
But as the Sheriff’s Department van entered a sally port where prisoners are off-loaded, Staples allegedly kicked out a rear panel of glass in the van and then rolled under a garage door before it closed, Putnam said.
Wilk, who was the only officer in the van, gave chase, quickly catching up with Staples whose hands and feet were shackled in accordance with the department’s transport policy.
Benard said Staples may have slipped one of his hands out of the restraints before he escaped.
Staples was able to briefly elude Wilk, Putnam wrote, but the chase never left the parking area of the jail on State Street.
While the incident ended without serious injuries, Benard said the escape would be reviewed by both his department and jail officials to learn whether changes in prisoner transport protocols would have prevented the attempt.
The sheriff said the incident indicated a disturbing trend that his department and Corrections officers must contend with when dealing with prisoners like Staples who have serious drug issues.
“He’s doing things that are putting people in danger simply because of his addiction,” he said. “It’s something we’re seeing more and more of. His drive for drugs made him do something that had absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. What was this guy going to do? He was alone in Rutland without a cellphone and half chained up. He’s so unpredictable that he jumped out of the back of a van.”
A day after the escape attempt, Staples was returned to Rutland criminal court Tuesday, when he pleaded innocent to four new charges including a felony charge of impeding a public officer and misdemeanor counts of escape, reckless endangerment and unlawful mischief.
Judge Theresa DiMauro set bail at $30,000 for Staples, who remained at the Rutland jail Wednesday.