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Ohio prisoner arrested after overpowering guard, taking hostages

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

HILLIARD, Ohio — Police arrested a prisoner at a house where he holed up with two hostages after overpowering a guard in a hospital, carjacking a vehicle and robbing two banks, authorities said.

Billy Jack Fitzmorris came peacefully out of a room Monday in the suburban Columbus home after about two hours of negotiations, police said.

He had two female hostages, but one woman went out a second-story window and jumped from a porch roof, Hilliard Chief Rodney Garnett said. She was taken to a hospital but not seriously injured, he said.

Garnett did not have details about who the hostages were, but a sign on the building indicated an accounting business was operated at the home. No one was injured when Fitzmorris was arrested.

Fitzmorris, 34, was believed to have escaped hours earlier on foot from St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown with the guard’s gun and uniform. Police believe he carjacked a vehicle and headed toward Columbus, robbing two banks in central Ohio before going into the house in Hilliard, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Youngstown.

Officers saw Fitzmorris driving on a freeway west of Columbus and attempted to pull him over but were unsuccessful. He wrecked the car at an intersection in Hilliard near the house where the women were taken hostage, Columbus police said.

TV footage showed a man breaking into the house after abandoning a car nearby. A woman later climbed out a second-story window and dropped to the ground as police arrived.

Fitzmorris had been held since February at the Northeast Ohio Correction Center in Youngstown for the U.S. Marshals Service, according to Corrections Corporation of America. The company, which runs the prison, said he was awaiting sentencing on a federal conviction for cocaine possession and intent to distribute cocaine.

Fitzmorris was taken to the hospital Saturday with a medical condition that was not life-threatening, Corrections Corporation spokeswoman Louise Grant said from the company’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fitzmorris was being observed in his room Monday morning when the confrontation occurred, and he ordered the guard to give up his pants, shirt, jacket and cap, Grant said.

Two hospital workers, the guard and three other prison officers were held briefly in a hospital room during the escape, but no one was injured, authorities said.


Associated Press Writer Thomas J. Sheeran in Youngstown contributed to this report.