Santa Cruz Inmate Escapee Terrorized Pre-School Class

SANTA CRUZ (CBS 5 / AP) ― A tranquil day at a Santa Cruz preschool was shattered when an escaped inmate burst through a door and pointed a gun at the head of a teacher caring for several infants, the preschool’s owner said Tuesday.

The inmate, identified as 24-year-old Maurice Ainsworth, had just stolen the gun of a female sheriff’s deputy who was overpowered while preparing to transport him from nearby Dominican Hospital, authorities said.

The unidentified teacher at The Secret Garden Too preschool was on the floor playing autoharp for three infants when a man broke through a fire door waving the gun, preschool owner Cathy LaTorre said.

A parent picking up her infant and another teacher ran out the back of the room and called 911, she said.

The gunman demanded the teacher’s car keys and tried to flee in the vehicle parked in the school’s parking lot, but an anti-theft device prevented him from starting the car, she said.

About 30 children were at the school at the time. No one was injured.

The unnamed deputy was in the process of placing Ainsworth in shackles after he underwent a medical procedure at the hospital, when he escaped around 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The 6-foot-7-inch, 275-pound inmate punched the deputy several times in the face, severely bit her finger and shot her in the ear with her Taser stun gun, causing lacerations, Santa Cruz County sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Campos said.

Authorities released few other details about the manhunt that involved foot patrols and air units before ending late Monday afternoon when Ainsworth was captured in a vacant house.

The sheriff’s office told CBS 5 on Tuesday that it was in the process of reviewing its procedures for transporting inmates.

The deputy was released from the hospital after being treated for her injuries.

Ainsworth had been in jail on charges of committing a home invasion robbery and was scheduled to go on trial in January. The inmate has an extensive criminal record, according to published reports.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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