Shots fired at car in court escape
A West Virginia man trying to escape from custody at a courthouse on Thursday jumped into a getaway car driven by an Ohio woman, but a deputy shot the car’s tire and the man and the woman were arrested, a sheriff said.
Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas said one deputy had been in front of the car and another was struggling to get the suspect out when a third deputy shot the tire to prevent the car from being used “for escape and as a weapon against the other officers.”
No serious injuries were reported in the shooting outside the Belmont County courthouse in Bellaire, in eastern Ohio. One sheriff’s detective said he suffered a minor injury to his leg when he was trying to get the man out of the car and get the driver to stop.
Detective Sgt. Ryan Allar said he dived into the car and was struggling with the occupants when another deputy stopped the car by shooting the tires.
Allar said he and some other deputies were in the courthouse when the man, later identified as Sylvester Walker, 20, of Wheeling, W.Va., became angry with a judge who ordered him arrested. He said Walker then fled the courthouse with the deputies chasing him.
Allar said he first tried to get Walker out of the car and then went to the driver’s side, ordering the woman to stop.
“I was reaching across her, with the man’s shirt in my hand, when he pulled away and jumped out of the car,” Allar said.
Walker was quickly apprehended at the edge of a wooded area, and he and the woman driver — Nicole Gust, 19, of Bellaire — were taken to the Belmont County Jail in St. Clairsville, Lucas said.
Lucas said Walker is being held in jail on charges including escape and criminal damaging. Gust is being held on charges of felonious assault and complicity to escape, the sheriff said.
Lucas said he did not know the reason Walker was in court Thursday morning.
It could not immediately be determined whether the two have attorneys yet.
Officials from Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation were called to help in the investigation being handled by the Bellaire police, a dispatcher said. Messages left for BCI also were not immediately returned.
The man was at a hearing about 10 a.m. in the Eastern Division Court of Belmont County when he fled, a court official said.
Eastern Division co-clerk Donna Cottage said she didn’t have details on the hearing. But she said the courthouse was locked down for about an hour until authorities informed court officials that the man had been arrested.
Cottage said people in her office couldn’t hear the shots or see anything and just went ahead with their work.
“We’re sort of used to incidents happening here,” she said. “We deal with defendants.”