Two Idaho fugitives captured day after violent escape

By Thomson Reuters Mar 21, 2024 | 6:32 PM

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – An Idaho maximum-security prison inmate and a former cellblock acquaintance who helped him escape from a hospital in a barrage of gunfire were arrested on Thursday without a shot being fired, ending a 36-hour manhunt, authorities said.

Skylar Meade, serving time for aggravated battery, and accused escape accomplice Nicholas Umphenour were taken into custody near Twin Falls, Idaho, about 130 miles southeast of the Boise hospital they fled early Wednesday morning, according to police.

During the manhunt for the two escapees, two other men were found slain in two separate locations, in Nez Perce and Clearwater counties, more than 200 miles north of Boise, the state capital, Idaho state police said.

The two homicides were under investigation as “potentially tied” to the prison escape and attempt to elude authorities that followed, state police Lieutenant Colonel Sheldon Kelley said. He declined to elaborate.

Meade and Umphenour were captured separately and without “extensive use of force,” following a short vehicle pursuit around 2 p.m. local time, Boise Police Chief Ron Winegar told an afternoon news conference. He said no shots were fired.

There were no details on how investigators tracked the two men from the scene of their getaway outside Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, where Umphenour is accused of ambushing prison guards as they were escorting Meade in shackles out of the hospital.

Two corrections officers were shot and severely wounded by the accomplice, and a third was slightly injured in gunfire from a police officer called to the scene in the ensuing chaos, even as Meade and Umphenour had already made their escape, police said.

Meade and Umphenour became acquainted while sharing a housing unit of the Idaho Maximum Security Institution during an off-and-on period from late December 2020 until Umphenour was released in January of this year, according to state Correction Department chief Josh Tewalt.

The two men also shared common acquaintances in prison and on the outside and were both members of the white supremacist gang known as the Aryan Knights, Tewalt said.

Meade, 31, was taken to the hospital on Tuesday night for treatment of what Tewalt called “self-injurious behavior” that prison staff found serious enough to warrant emergency medical care.

He had been incarcerated since 2016 and was most recently housed under administrative segregation, a form of solitary confinement for inmates deemed especially dangerous, Tewalt said. Meade was due for parole eligibility in October 2026, a decade before the scheduled end of his current prison term.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)