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A prisoner escaped from custody in Idaho after an accomplice’s shooting spree. Here’s what we know

Three correctional officers shot and wounded – one by a responding police officer – in a chaotic firefight as prisoner serving 20-year sentence is sprung by armed accomplice, writes Michelle Del Rey

Thursday 21 March 2024 21:58 GMT
Skylar Meade escaped after an accomplice broke him out of a hospital in Idaho at dead of night. Three correctional officers were shot and wounded, one by a police officer responding to the emergency call
Skylar Meade escaped after an accomplice broke him out of a hospital in Idaho at dead of night. Three correctional officers were shot and wounded, one by a police officer responding to the emergency call (AP / Boise Police Dept)

A manhunt in Idaho for a prisoner serving a 20-year sentence for shooting at a sheriff during a high-speed car chase, concluded on Thursday after he was recaptured along with his alleged accomplice.

Skylar Meade, 31, was busted out of hospital in a night-time raid, during which three correctional officers were shot and wounded in a chaotic firefight in the darkness – one of them hit by a police officer responding to the emergency call.

The dramatic breakout started at about 2.15am on the morning of Wednesday 20 March.

Prisoner Skylar Meade had been taken to Saint Alphonsus hospital in Boise for medical treatment. As officials tried to transport him from the facility, they were ambushed by a gunman who shot two of the correctional officers escorting him. One was said to be in critical condition while the other sustained minor injuries.

A third was hit by a police officer responding to the incident but is also reported not to have sustained serious injuries.

Police announced on Thursday afternoon that both man had detained.

Here’s everything we know about the case:

Who is Skylar Meade?

Meade has been incarcerated since October 2016. His most recent sentence is slated to end in 2036 October. He’s serving time for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a firearm enhancement and has prior convictions, including felony possession of a controlled substance, grand theft and introduction of contraband into a correctional facility.

KTVB7 reported that Meade was convicted after shooting at a Twin Falls sheriff’s sergeant during a high-speed car chase. He had been fleeing a traffic stop. After later crashing his car he tried to flee on foot but was arrested. He was also convicted of possession of methamphetamine, illegal possession of a handgun, and having a shank at the county jail.

Image of Skylar Meade released by Boise Police following his escape from custody (Boise Police)

He pleaded guilty to all the charges and was told he would have to spend 10 years in jail before being eligible for release.

How did he get away?

Officials say that the men left Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center before police backup arrived at the scene. Law enforcement alleges that the accomplice pulled up to the ambulance bay of a hospital where Meade was being treated and opened fire on police.

The two men were able to leave the premises in a grey four-door sedan.

Chief Ron Winegar said: “This brazen, violent, and apparently coordinated attack on Idaho Department of Corrections personnel, to facilitate an escape of a dangerous inmate, was carried out right in front of the Emergency Department, where people come for medical help, often in the direst circumstances.

“When BPD officers responded, they believed the shooter was inside the Emergency Department. They immediately entered to address any potential continued threat to Emergency Room staff. I am grateful this harrowing incident did not result in loss of life, and we are monitoring the wounded IDOC officers with great hope for a full and speedy recovery of all involved.”

On Thursday afternoon police announced they had captured Meade and the accomplice near Leland, Idaho at around 2pm local time after the vehicle they had used in the escape – a grey Honda Accord – was located.

According to Leiutenant Colonel Sheldon Kelly of Boise Police, law enforcement found two other homicide victims during the search for the men.

It is unclear if the two homicides are connected to dramatic escape, and an investigation into them are underway.

Who is the accomplice?

Police initially did not know who the accomplice is in the case and encouraged anyone that might come into contact with the to stay vigilant.

On Wednesday Chief Winegar said: “We caution anyone who may have contact with the suspects involved in this violent attack and escape to call 911 immediately and not confront them personally. They are armed, dangerous, and have shown they are willing to use extreme violence in furtherance of their criminal activity.”

The accomplice was later identified as Nicholas Umphenour, a former acquaintance of Meade’s while behind bars.

In a press conference on Thursday, Josh Tewalt, the director of the Idaho Department of Corrections, said that Meade and Umphenour shared housing at one point while serving in the Idaho Maximum Security Institution.

The two had a crossover in the unit at the facility from December 2020 until January 2024. They were also part of the same white supremacist prison gang – the Aryan Knights – Mr Tewalt said.

He added that more information on Umphenour’s criminal history would be made available in due course by the Department of Corrections.

What are the conditions of the officers?

Of the three officers shot, one is in critical but stable condition, a second has serious but non-life-threatening injuries while the third is also receiving treatment for non-life-threatening injuries. All of the officials worked for the Idaho Department of Corrections.

The third officer was shot after backup arrived at the scene and mistook him for an armed man.

Mr Tewalt told reporters on Thursday that one of the officers had been released from hospital, while the two others remained there but were “stable and improving”.

“I think with today’s news, their spirits are lifted,” he said.

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