Local News

Procedures likely weren't followed in inmate's escape

Posted November 17, 2010 5:20 p.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2010 6:58 p.m. EST

— Correctional officers most likely were not following procedures Tuesday when a prisoner escaped from a Chapel Hill hospital and stole a University of North Carolina campus police car, a top state prison official says.

Farley Linford Bernard, 46, was being treated at UNC Hospitals Tuesday afternoon when he escaped from two armed correctional officers, Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said

Bob Lewis, director of the state Division of Prisons, said Wednesday that one of the officers had taken off Bernard’s cuffs while the inmate was changing into a hospital robe behind a curtain.

He somehow got access to the police car and led police on a 20-mile chase until the patrol car crashed into a median wall on Interstate 40 near Graham in Alamance County.

“In terms of policies and procedures, there is no reason why the inmate should have been unrestrained at any time,” Lewis said.

Both officers have been reassigned, he said, and disciplinary action – which could range from a written warning to dismissal – will be determined once an investigation is complete. It's too early in the investigation to say whether any policies need to be changed.

“Anytime we, as an agency, put the general public at risk, it is something that causes concern for us,” Lewis said.

A recording of radio traffic from Tuesday’s pursuit indicates law enforcement officers were very concerned about the public’s safety and considered Bernard very dangerous.

“Let everyone know, based on his actions, he is using deadly force,” one officer says. “He has gone head-on with several vehicles, including law enforcement. Speeds of 115 (mph).”

“Someone ought to have to take this vehicle out,” the recording continues.

Bernard faces one count each of larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, fleeing to elude arrest, escape and injury to personal property.

He is serving a 25-year prison sentence at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City for first-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of stolen goods, according to Department of Correction records.