Escaped convicted inmate detained in New Orleans hotel room

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A convicted felon and murder suspect -- who escaped Louisiana law enforcement custody by pepper spraying and then stealing the cruiser of his deputy escort during a hospital visit earlier this week -- has been apprehended, authorities said Tuesday.

Leon Ruffin, 51, was detained Tuesday afternoon at a New Orleans hotel by local police and U.S. Marshals, Sheriff Joseph Lopinto of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said during a press conference.


Lopinto said Ruffin was at the hotel alone and was arrested without incident at about 2:30 p.m.

"He's back in JPOS custody and will stay here a long time," Lopinto said.

Ruffin was being held in Jefferson Parish on multiple charges including second-degree murder for the shooting death of Gannon Johnson in July.

Authorities said Ruffin was wheelchair-bound, wore a boot on one foot and was receiving treatment in the medical unit at the correctional facility. At about noon Sunday, he was transported to the Ochsner Medical Center -- West Bank Campus after suffering what appeared to be a seizure that authorities now suspect was faked.


After receiving treatment, Ruffin was discharged from the hospital at 6:30 p.m. and was in the back of a cruiser in the parking lot of the facility when he began complaining that his foot was in pain and that his medical boot had become stuck in the vehicle.

When the deputy stopped the car and opened the back door to check, Ruffin had removed the boot. He then pepper-sprayed her before jumping into the driver's seat of the vehicle and driving away.

The deputy fired multiple shots at the fleeing vehicle but Ruffin managed to escape.

"Look, she acted like a human being. She thought she had a person that was hurting," Lopinto said in defense of his deputy during an earlier press conference on Tuesday. "She treated somebody with compassion that doesn't deserve compassion, to be honest with you."

The cruiser was found abandoned within two and a half hours of the escape. Authorities are unsure how Ruffin acquired the pepper spray.

Lopinto told reporters that Ruffin appears to have had help in his escape and that "multiple" arrests were in the works.

"I don't know exactly how many. We're going to follow up on all of those. But anybody that had contact over the last few days who did anything in furtherance of his escape, we'll certainly will make those arrests," he said.


A search warrant was being executed on the hotel room as the press conference was ongoing, Lopinto added.

Following his escape, Ruffin spent most of his time on the lam "pretty much locked up in a hotel room instead of a jail cell," Lopinto said.

"So, I don't think he had a really good time over the last two days. But it looks like he was there most of the time," he said.

A $5,000 dollar reward had been offered by Crime Stoppers for information that led to his arrest.

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