Ohio prisoner arrested after overpowering guard, holing up with hostage, police say

HILLIARD, Ohio (AP) – Police arrested a prison inmate at a house where he holed up Monday with a hostage after overpowering a guard in a hospital and fleeing with the guard’s gun and uniform, authorities said.

Billy Jack Fitzmorris came peacefully out of a room in the suburban Columbus home, police said. Authorities did not say who the hostage was, and no one was injured.

Police led a man in a white shirt out of the house with his hands cuffed behind his back, and he was taken away in a van surrounded by police motorcycles.

Fitzmorris, 34, was believed to have escaped hours earlier on foot from St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown. Police believe he robbed two banks in central Ohio before going into the house in Hilliard, about 150 miles southwest of Youngstown, Hilliard police Lt. Evert Lambert said.

Two hospital workers, the guard and three other prison officers were held briefly in a hospital room during the escape, but no one was injured, authorities said.

Fitzmorris had been held since February at the Northeast Ohio Correction Center in Youngstown for the U.S. Marshals Service, according to Corrections Corporation of America. The company, which runs the prison, said he was awaiting sentencing on a federal conviction for cocaine possession and intent to distribute cocaine.

Television footage showed a man breaking into the house after abandoning a car nearby. A woman later climbed out a second-story window and dropped to the ground as police arrived. Hilliard police had no information about the woman.

Mary Veach said she and a friend were riding motorcycles nearby before the standoff when they noticed a car speeding past them, apparently being pursued.

“There were three cop cars behind and then 12 cop cars,” Veach said. “I’m really scared. What’s so scary is that we were right behind the house.”

Fitzmorris was taken to the hospital Saturday with a medical condition that was not life-threatening, Corrections Corporation spokeswoman Louise Grant said from the company’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

Fitzmorris was being observed in his room Monday morning when the confrontation occurred, and he ordered the guard to give up his pants, shirt, jacket and cap, Grant said.

Tina Creighton, a spokeswoman for St. Elizabeth hospital, said authorities searched the block-long complex for Fitzmorris, room by room, for several hours. The 400 patients would have noticed increased security, but no care was interrupted, she said.


Associated Press writer Thomas J. Sheeran in Youngstown contributed to this report.