Local News

Escaped Inmates Captured in Johnston County

Posted June 21, 1999

— Authorities in Johnston County have captured two inmates who escaped from Wake Correctional Center late Tuesday afternoon. The inmates were traced to Benson after a vehicle they carjacked in Raleigh was found on I-40 near the I-95 interchange.

Two hours after the search began late Thursday night, the inmates were found in a wooded area, hiding in the underbrush near Johnson and Adams Streets.

Demetrius Bryant and Samuel Cooper were not carrying weapons when they were apprehended, and officials say they gave up without a fight.

Police appeared to be closing in on the two men Wednesday, after receiving a tip that the men, and their car, were spotted just a mile from theWake Correctional Center.

Police say the inmates escaped around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on Rock Quarry Road, when they overpowered a guard while on the way back from minimum-security work detail. A third inmate, who also escaped, has since turned himself in to authorities.

The break happened when a prison van carrying seven inmates from the correctional center pulled to a stop on Rock Quarry Road just off the beltline, police say. Three of the inmates -- Cooper, 22; Wayne Wilson, 27; and Bryant, 22 -- allegedly attacked the supervisor, injured him, and escaped by driving away in the van.

Thursday, Hazel Bryant made a tearful plea to her son to stop running.

"Please give yourself up, everybody loves you," she said. "Just call me, you know I am always there for you. Please come in."

The other four inmates stayed with the driver, James Capps, and were returned to the prison. Capps, who was punched once in the face by Cooper, was treated atWake Medical Center.

"It appears the three of them planned to do this," said Dennis Roland, who oversees security for Wake County Corrections. "They attacked their supervisor, overpowered him, and took control of his vehicle."

Police say the suspects then drove the van toSoutheast Raleigh High School, where they dumped it in the parking lot between rows of parked school buses. Their work clothes and a hard hat were found inside the van.

The suspects then reportedly ran across the street to Creech Road where Cooper's parents live. His mother, Jackie Cooper, said she tried to stop the men. They drove away in the family car, a light blue 1979 Toyota Corolla; the license plate number is LVL7081.

"I think he was out on work release, and he came and took my husband's car, and two other guys were there," said Jackie Cooper. "When I saw him, I was coming to the door to stop him. I told him to leave the car, but they just kept going."

Authorities say all three suspects have a history of violence, and many wonder what they were doing on work detail in a van with only one unarmed guard.

The Wake Correctional Center houses 456 inmates; 350 of them board vans every day going to some type of job assignment in the community. Prison officials say the inmates, including the three escapees, have earned the right to work outside the prison.

"Even though these are serious crimes and serious sentences, these people, as you've looked at their records, were going to be out in several years," says Daniel Stieneke, deputy secretary of the Department of Correction.

"Where we believe it's proper, we do put inmates in situations of graduated responsibility in order to give them an opportunity to more gradually re-enter society," he says.

Prisoners do a variety of work while they are serving time. On any given day, approximately 18,000 inmates are out working, and that includes educational programs.

About one-third of the inmates work outside of the prison in road squads, as hired workers by state and local agencies, or in work release programs organized with companies.

This kind of work detail is different from work release programs, officials say. Inmates participating in work release programs are free to come and go as they please, under the supervision of a private sector boss. Inmates on work detail are under the supervision of a Department of Correction official.

Other inmates work inside the prison on kitchen duty, cleaning grounds or part of prison industries making license plates, highway signs and even furniture.

To qualify for minimum security prisons like Wake's, inmates must have less than five years left on their sentences. Each of the escapees had less than three years left to serve.

But, correction officials admit they may have been fooled by the short sentences and string of good behavior; they say they hope the public does not pay the price.

"Certainly we would hope that they would not cause anyone any harm, but...they are serving sentences for assault," says Bonnie Boyette, superintendent of the prison.

"There are never any guarantees," Roland says. "I mean they are human beings, and these are people that a lot of times make bad decisions."

Cooper was serving a 20-year sentence on armed robbery, assault, and drug charges. Bryant was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery and assault. Wilson was serving a 17-year sentence for second-degree murder.

Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, Wilson called corrections officials and asked if he could meet them at the Raleigh Police Department. He told officials he was not part of the escape plan; he said it took him by surprise. Wilson is back behind bars. ,Todd Hauer,Len Besthoff,andLynda LovelandandLynn FrenchandJulie Moos

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