Middlesex County Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian defended Thursday his department’s security procedures for transporting inmates a day after a prisoner slipped out of his restraints at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, gained control of a deputy sheriff’s gun, and shot the officer in the leg.
“This incident further highlights just how unpredictable and dangerous this profession can be,” Koutoujian said at a press conference. “As frightening as this situation was, it could have been much worse, if not for the efforts of these two highly trained and respected officers.”
Raymond Wallace, 36, of Marblehead was charged Thursday with unlawful possession of a firearm, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a public employee, and escape, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel C. Conley’s office said.
Wallace was being held at the Middlesex Jail in Cambridge on armed robbery charges when he was brought to the downtown Boston medical facility Wednesday by two armed Middlesex deputy sheriffs.
Koutoujian said Thursday that Wallace was restrained using handcuffs, a waist chain, and leg chains while in transit.
“Any time we’re transporting any inmate, any detainee, any prisoner for any reason, it is always a high-risk situation, and we treat it as such,” he said.
After Wallace was treated and released from the hospital, he was escorted back into the building to use the restroom, according to a police report. In the bathroom, he “was able to free himself from his restraints . . . then attempted to flee the hospital,” Boston police wrote in their report.
Outside the bathroom, Wallace “engaged in a violent assault on the deputy sheriffs,” gained control of one deputy’s gun, and shot him in the leg, according to the report. The second deputy then shot Wallace point-blank in the chest.
Koutoujian said the wounded officer — whom he identified as Jonathan Persson, a 13-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department — was being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital Thursday, and was in good spirits and able to walk.
Jerry Flynn, executive director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, identified the second deputy as Sean Lee.
“If it weren’t for the heroic actions of Officer Lee, we would be burying Officer Persson today,” Flynn said. “Officer Lee acted heroically and saved a lot of people’s lives.”
Flynn said his organization, which represents the two deputy sheriffs, filed a grievance in 2011 to push the Sheriff’s Department to make it standard practice to have two armed correction officers escort inmates to nonprison facilities.
Sean McAdam, superintendent of the Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica, said the department has always transported prisoners to single-day or outpatient hospital visits under the guard of two officers.
“For overnight stays, the practice in the past administration would have one officer cover an overnight or multiple-day stay at a hospital,” he said.
“In 2011, we had a discussion with the union, Sheriff Koutoujian listened to that and authorized a procedural change,” McAdam said. “Since 2011, we have covered our inpatient hospital details with two armed correctional officers.’’
No one else was hurt during the burst of gunfire, which led to the closing of Mass. Eye and Ear’s emergency room for six hours while authorities collected evidence, officials said.
Wallace will be arraigned on the new charges once his health improves, Conley’s office said.
He has been shot by police before. In 2001, authorities have said, he was shot multiple times by officers after he tried to break into the Pizzi Farm Stand in Waltham. At the time, Wallace was masked, had two loaded firearms, and tried to wrest an officer’s gun away, the Globe reported.
On Thursday, his current lawyer, Raymond D. Buso, said the Waltham confrontation nearly cost Wallace his life. “He was on life support, and he was expected to die,’’ Buso said.
After recovering, he pleaded guilty to robbery and unlawful possession of firearms charges in Middlesex Superior Court.
He is now facing a cluster of charges for armed robberies he allegedly committed in Peabody in 2010 and in Salem in 2011.
Buso said Wallace was mulling whether to accept a plea deal negotiated with Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett’s office.
Although being prosecuted in Essex County, Wallace was being housed at the Middlesex Jail because of “enemy issues” with other pretrial detainees.