Murder suspect escapes medical transport after pepper spraying deputy

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A convicted felon and murder suspect has escaped police custody in Louisiana after pepper spraying and then stealing the cruiser of the deputy transporting him back to jail following a hospital visit.

Authorities in Jefferson Parish announced the escape Sunday night, identifying the inmate as Leon Ruffin.


Jail records indicate he was arrested on July 24 and was being held in Louisiana's Jefferson Parish, which is included in the Greater New Orleans Area, on charges of second-degree murder, assault with a firearm, obstruction of justice, a felon carrying an illegal weapon and other offenses.

"I really don't think he has anything to lose," Sheriff Joseph Lopinto of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office told reporters during a press conference Sunday night. "Again, he's in for second-degree murder for life in prison ... So, I definitely consider him armed and dangerous."

Lopinto said Ruffin was transported to the Ochsner Medical Center -- West Bank Campus at around noon after suffering what appeared to be a seizure while he was at the medical unit of the correctional center. After receiving treatment, Ruffin was discharged from the hospital at around 6:30 p.m.


As he was being driven through the parking lot around the back of the hospital, he created "some kind of disturbance" that forced the deputy who was driving to stop and exit the vehicle, Lopinto said.

Ruffin is then accused of pepper spraying the female deputy, and then stealing her cruiser. The deputy then fired off three rounds of her service revolver at the fleeing vehicle, Lopinto said, but added that it was unclear if the suspect had been hit.

Police were also unsure of where he got the pepper spray from as the transporting deputy was still armed with hers, along with her taster and weapon.

"As I said, I don't believe he has a firearm," Lopinto said. "But he's certainly armed with pepper spray."

Lopinto added that they believe he was faking some of his injuries.

Ruffin was being held on accusations of fatally shooting Gannon Johnson in front of the man's Avondale home in July. Lopinto said the family of his victim has been informed of the escape.

"Hopefully we can get this guy in custody as quickly as we can," he said.

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