Idaho Prison Gang Member and Accomplice Arrested After Hospital Ambush


An Idaho prison gang member and an accomplice who fled a Boise hospital on Wednesday in a brazen escape in which three corrections officers were shot were arrested on Thursday, according to the authorities, who said they were investigating whether the men had killed two people while they were at large.

The episode began about 2 a.m. Wednesday, when Idaho Department of Correction officers took Skylar Meade, 31, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, to the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, for medical treatment, the Boise Police Department said on Wednesday.

As the officers were about to take him back to prison, they were attacked by someone who was later identified as Nicholas Umphenour, 28, according to the authorities. Three officers were shot — two by Mr. Umphenour, and one by a police officer who arrived at the hospital just after the ambush, the authorities said. Mr. Meade and Mr. Umphenour, who were prison mates for about four years, fled before Boise Police officers arrived at the hospital, the Police Department said.

While Mr. Meade and Mr. Umphenour were on the loose, the police warned that the two men were considered “armed and dangerous.” They were caught without incident around 2 p.m. Thursday after a brief vehicle pursuit in the Twin Falls area, about 120 miles southeast of Boise, Chief Ron Winegar of the Boise Police Department said at a news conference.

Lt. Col. Sheldon Kelley with the Idaho State Police said at the news conference that the authorities were investigating whether separate homicides of two men — one in Nez Perce County and another, about 100 miles northeast in Clearwater County in Idaho — are tied to Mr. Meade and Mr. Umphenour.

Colonel Kelley said that shackles found at the scene of one of the killings helped the authorities establish a potential link to the two suspects.

The names of the two men who were killed were not released on Thursday, and it was unclear whether the victims had any ties to gangs.

The Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that deputies found one of the men dead around 8 p.m. Wednesday after they had been asked to perform a welfare check. The Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office referred questions about the homicide there to the Idaho State Police.

Josh Tewalt, director of the Idaho Department of Correction, said at the news conference that one of the officers who was injured was released from the hospital on Wednesday evening, and that the two other officers were in stable condition and improving.

The authorities were still trying to piece together how the ambush at the hospital had unfolded. Mr. Tewalt said that the authorities believe Mr. Meade and Mr. Umphenour had worked together in orchestrating the attack.

“We know with near certainty, this was not an accident,” Mr. Tewalt said. “This was a planned event.” Charges are pending against the two.

Mr. Meade and Mr. Umphenour were housed at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution between December 2020 and January 2024, Mr. Tewalt said. He added that they were believed to share some acquaintances and were both members of the Aryan Knights, a white supremacist prison gang based mostly in Idaho, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Mr. Meade had been serving time for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a firearm enhancement, and he had earlier convictions for possession of a controlled substance, grand theft, and bringing contraband into a correctional facility, according to the Boise Police Department. He had been in prison since October 2016, and he was serving a sentence through October 2036, the Police Department said.

It was unclear why Mr. Umphenour had been in prison. He was released from custody on Jan. 17, 2024, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.

Mr. Tewalt said that the authorities were investigating whether Mr. Meade and Mr. Umphenour had been communicating with contraband cellphones.

“We know that there are ways that they attempt to thwart our procedures and our safeguards that we have in place,” Mr. Tewalt said, “and that’s what we’re trying to figure out right now.”

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