Two escaped inmates sought in the killings of two guards on a Georgia prison bus were captured after a chase and being held at gunpoint by a rural Tennessee homeowner whose vehicle they were trying to steal, authorities said.
Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose were apprehended Thursday in the rural community of Christiana, Tenn., ending a multi-state manhunt that began Tuesday morning.
Both escapees were serving sentences for armed robbery and other crimes. The Department of Corrections said Rowe, 43, had been serving life without parole since 2002, and Dubose, 24, began a 20-year sentence in 2015.
“True bravery is what’s caused us to stand before you tonight to talk about a successful capture instead of a tragic incident,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director Mark Gwyn said at a news conference after the two were captured. “So I’m totally grateful to everyone involved.”
Earlier in the day, police in nearby Shelbyville had responded to a call about a home invasion, where a couple had been held captive, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Nelly Miles said.
The suspects fled in the couple’s vehicle and fired on sheriff’s deputies chasing them on Interstate 24 about 80 kilometres southeast of Nashville, Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Bill Miller said. Rutherford County Sheriff Michael Fitzhugh said his deputies did not return fire and none of them was injured.
Man, neighbour held pair
Rowe and Dubose crashed the car and bailed out, running into the woods, Miller said. They then came across a home set back on a long driveway.
The trooper said the homeowner looked outside and saw the two allegedly trying to steal his car. The man held the two at gunpoint with a neighbour he called for help until the sheriff’s department could get there to arrest the fugitives.
The two were being held at the Rutherford County jail.
‘They will be brought to justice swiftly for their heinous crime against our officers.’
– Greg Dozier, Georgia Department of Corrections commissioner
Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier said in a news release that he was relieved the inmates were captured and no longer a threat to the public.
“They will be brought to justice swiftly for their heinous crime against our officers,” he said, also expressing gratitude to all of the law enforcement officers who provided support and assistance in the search for the two men.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal applauded the “tireless efforts” of law enforcement but also turned his thoughts to the families of the two officers, saying their pain remains.
Dubose and Rowe have been captured.
“We will do everything in our power to support their loved ones, and we will not forget their sacrifice and service,” Deal said.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine said the bureau’s agents will take part in processing the scene.
The two men had been on the run since early Tuesday, when they are accused of having killed Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue.
The two inmates overpowered and disarmed the guards on a bus about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday as 33 inmates were being driven between prisons, authorities have said. One of them fatally shot both guards, and then they jumped out of the bus and carjacked a driver who happened to pull up behind them on state Highway 16 in Putnam County, southeast of Atlanta, authorities said.
The inmates then fled in the stolen Honda Civic and drove about 40 kilometres north to Madison, where they ransacked a home, stealing food and clothes and leaving their prison uniforms behind around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Late Tuesday night, about 12 hours after the home burglary, the pair stole a Ford pickup truck from a rock quarry about 15 kilometres from the burglarized home when the trail had gone cold.
The FBI announced a tip line and said pictures of the men and information about a $130,000 US reward would appear on billboards in multiple states. Gwyn said Thursday he wasn’t sure who would collect the reward.
Armed with guards’ pistols
Authorities warned that the men, who had escaped with the guards’ 9-mm pistols, were considered very dangerous. Gwyn said investigators believe both weapons have been found at the site where the men crashed the vehicle.
Monica and Billue were transfer sergeants at Baldwin State Prison. Monica had been with the Georgia Department of Corrections since October 2009 and Billue since July 2007.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said the escaped inmates had been inside a secured area of the bus. He said he didn’t know how they got through the locked cage to overpower the guards.
Protocol is to have two armed corrections officers on the bus, but the officers don’t wear bullet-proof vests during transfers, Dozier said.