Video: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office describes capture of jail inmate who escaped from Erlanger

Video: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office describes capture of jail inmate who escaped from Erlanger

Suspect surrenders peacefully in North Germantown Road area of Chattanooga after evading apprehension for about 35 hours

July 8th, 2019 by Rosana Hughes in Local Regional News

Gallery: Escaped inmate

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The search for an escaped Hamilton County Jail inmate came to an end late Monday afternoon.

Anthony Labron Bell, 29, evaded capture for about 35 hours after escaping from Erlanger Health System wearing a green hospital gown, barefoot and in handcuffs.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Chattanooga Police Department personnel, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, found Bell in the North Germantown Road area just after 5 p.m., sheriff's office Chief Deputy Austin Garrett said.

Garrett declined to say exactly where Bell was located.

Bell was wearing a grey undershirt and black sweatpants. His handcuffs were still on his wrists, though the connecting chain had been cut.

It wasn't clear what Bell was doing, whether he was indoors or outdoors, or if he was alone at the time of his arrest. Investigators declined to say what led them to Bell. That's because of the ongoing criminal investigation, Garrett said.

They did say, however, that he surrendered peacefully.

Anthony Labron Bell / Photo from Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Anthony Labron Bell / Photo from Hamilton County...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"We're thankful and pleased this has now ended," Garrett said. "We want to thank the public for helping us [with] any leads that were provided."

Bell vanished at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday when he ran down a stairwell, out one of Erlanger's main entrances and onto Blackford Street.

Later that day, detectives learned Bell had broken into Professional Industrial Tire in the 1500 block of Riverside Drive, where they found his hospital gown and medical bracelet. There, they believed Bell changed into a blue T-shirt and blue jeans, and it may have been where he cut the chain on the handcuffs.

Neighbors of the business weren't very alarmed, and some hadn't even heard the news.

"I'm not worried 'cause I don't know nothing about it," said Cassandra Pillows, who was enjoying the afternoon with friends on a porch in the Avondale neighborhood just behind the tire business.

Several people at a nearby gas station also said they weren't very concerned because they didn't think Bell would be anywhere near where he was last seen.

Two guards were with him while at Erlanger Sunday morning, Garrett said, though it's not clear how he was able to escape their sight. And because of federal medical privacy restrictions, officials are unable to say in what area of the hospital Bell had been.

Inmates are taken to Erlanger and other health facilities daily, Garrett said. But this was the first time in at least five years that an inmate escaped custody while at a hospital.

While it's policy for inmates to be cuffed and in leg restraints any time they leave the jail, Bell was not wearing any leg shackles at the time of his escape, Garrett said. That's something that can be requested by medical professionals if the shackles interfere with medical care. But both cuffs and shackles cannot be removed at the same time, Garrett said.

Anthony Labron Bell / Photo from Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Anthony Labron Bell / Photo from Hamilton County...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Whether the shackles were rightfully removed will be determined as part of an internal affairs investigation, Garrett said. That investigation also will reveal if any other policies were violated.

Questions arose after officials didn't release information until seven hours after Bell had escaped.

"[Detectives] had specific leads that they felt, based on intelligence, that may help them get him into custody quicker than us publicizing his picture," Garrett said. "They asked for that window of time, and I gave it to them."

The investigation had also been slowed down by Sunday's rain and some technical difficulties with the IT system at Professional Industrial Tire, Garrett said.

Bell, who is being held at the Hamilton County Jail, will face felony escape charges, two counts of vandalism, two counts of theft of property and one count of burglary. That's on top of the slew of charges he was already facing, which include six counts of aggravated robbery, aggravated child abuse or neglect, bribery of a public servant and a statutory rape charge from Lowndes County, Georgia.

Some of the Hamilton County charges stem from a May 2 incident in which two people robbed a Papa John's at gunpoint.

On his way to the jail, Bell asked an officer how much money the officer had ever held in his hand. He then told the officer he had $40,000 "stashed away" and asked if they could go to get the money so he "could have freedom."

Bell's latest bond amount had not been set as of Monday evening.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.


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