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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (6)
  1. Irish Rebel says:

    Death Penalty! And make it swift!

  2. Dr. Doom says:

    Political correctness dictates that a diminutive female deputy be assiged to transport alone a 6’7″ 275 pound convict….

  3. Truth Hurts says:

    GOD (That’s right I said it) forgive any Administrator who tells her she is too small to be transporting that prisoner. Heck, I’m 5-11/190 with a 16 yrs of martial arts experience and I would want a second officer with me. Lets be smart folks and lets think OFFICER SAFETY rather than avoiding offending people. For anyone who is of small stature or specific gender, don’t take it personally if you’re given a second officer or get re-assigned. Incidents like these are we try to avoid. We’re thinking of making sure you go home at the end of your shift.

  4. Vince says:

    VERY fortunate that she (OR ANY-one else) wasnt hurt &/or killed. She should have known better/ She should have asked for assistance. IT JUST MAKES GOOD SENSE. Even If the attending officer would have been 6’1″ 240lbs. (They Should Still Ask For assistance/ If not make it mandatory. Expecially when the inmate is as big as this Inmate/ dude is.

  5. CMV says:

    the officer has the right to deny the task if she can show that it is an unsafe task.
    common sense is not in any policy. it just needs to be exercised more often.

  6. Steve says:

    I am a police officer and my department has a strict policy that every prisoner going to or from the hospital is to be guarded by two officers. It just makes sense. Sure, the physical match-up here stands out, but regardless of the comparative sizes of the lone officer and the prisoner, the smart thing to do is to always outnumber the bad guys whenever possible.

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