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Inmate Skylar Meade escaped from prison in Idaho. What we know about his links to white supremacist gangs

The prisoner and his associate were both captured on Thursday afternoon

Mike Bedigan
Thursday 21 March 2024 23:31 GMT
Prisoners escape in helicopter

Escaped prisoner Skylar Meade and his accomplice Nicholas Umphenour have been recaptured after the two men coordinated a prison escape in Idaho on Wednesday, officials have said.

Meade had been serving a 20-year prison sentence for shooting a sheriff in a high-speed car chase at the time of his escape.

Umphenour allegedly shot two of the officers to help Meade break free. A third correctional officer was shot amid the chaos as backup arrived at the scene and mistook the officer for an armed individual.

The men were later reported to have been associates while spending time behind bars at the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC). Both had links to the same white supremacist gang.

Here’s everything we know about Meade, the escaped prisoner:

Who is Skylar Meade?

The 31-year-old prisoner has been incarcerated since 2016 October. His most recent sentence is due to end in 2036 October. He was jailed over charges including aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a firearm enhancement.

Before that, Meade was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance, grand theft and introduction of contraband into a correctional facility. Based on a report from KTVB7, the prisoner was convicted after a shooting at a Twin Falls sheriff’s sergeant during a high-speed car chase.

The outlet reported that the man was trying to flee a traffic stop. Meade ended up crashing his car and tried to run away on foot but was later arrested. He was separately convicted of possession of methamphetamine, illegal possession of a handgun and having a shank at a county correctional facility.

Skylar Meade (Boise Police)

Officials described Meade as 5’6 and 150 lbs. He has face tattoos including the numbers 1 and 11.

Prior to the incident, Meade was being held in solitary confinement due to security concerns.

How was he able to escape?

Meade was at the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center seeking medical treatment and had been taken to the hospital around 9.35pm on Tuesday after he engaged in “self-injurious behaviour”, The Associated Press reported.

Under state procedure, unarmed guards stand at each side of a high-risk prisoner while an armed guard follows them. Officials did not elaborate on additional security measures that were taken and it is not clear if Meade was walking on his own or restrained in any way.

It was when officials were gearing up to transfer Meade back to prison that the attack occurred. Around 2.15am on Wednesday an armed accomplice launched an attack.

Three prison officers were shot in the ensuing gunfight and the two men were able to escape in a four-door sedan, later identified as a grey Honda Accord.

The men escaped in a vehicle identified as a grey Honda Accord (Boise Police)

All of the officers shot work for the IDOC. The department director Josh Tewalt told reporters on Thursday that one of the officers had been released from hospital, while two others remained there but were “stable and improving”.

He added that following news of Meade’s recapture, the men’s spirits were “lifted”.

Who is Nicholas Umphenour?

Meade’s alleged accomplice in the escape was later identified as Nicholas Umphenour.

According to police information, Umphenour is about 5’11 and weighs 160 lbs. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. He was wanted for two counts of aggravated battery against law enforcement and one charge of aiding and abetting an escape, police said in a statement.

The warrant has a $2m bond.

Officials said on Thursday that additional information about Umphenour’s past criminal history would be available in due course.

Josh Tewalt, direcotr of the Idaho Department of Corrections said that both Meade and Umphenour had common acquaintances in custody and had been housed at the maximum security institute at the same time. The two had a crossover in the unit at the facility from December 2020 until January 2024.

Nicholas Umphenour (Boise Police Department via REUTERS)

In addition, both were members of the white supremacist group Aryan Knights.

Who are the Aryan Knights?

The Aryan Knights emerged in the mid-1990s to “organize criminal activity for a select group of white inmates within IDOC custody,” according to the Idaho District Attorney’s Office.

The group has white supremacist and white separatist ideologies. It is believed to have over 100 members inside and outside of IDOC. The group has used violence and threats of violence to target non-white inmates and other targeted inmates.

The Anti-Defamation League says the group will identify themselves with tattoos for the number “12” as well as “A” and “K”.

Meade’s tattoos – 1 and 11 – are thought to represent A and K, the first and 11th letters of the alphabet, which supposedly stands for Aryan Knights.

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