A daring escape by one Polk Corrections Institution inmate opened the door for four other inmates on a work detail to also make their own escape.
It was around 12:17 p.m. that David Ross attacked his supervising corrections officer Jeffery Rexrode with “an improvised sharp object” commonly referred to in prison as a shank, and took Rexrode hostage. In the process, four other inmates on the work detail were locked in a room, the door tied with rope, at a building in Mosaic Park. Ross then stole a City of Bartow vehicle and started driving to Pinellas County with Rexrode as his hostage.
Up until this point, no law enforcement agency knew what happened.
“They were able to break the rope that was tying the door and get out as they came out their was a young lady sitting in her car a couple hundred feet away having lunch,” Bartow Police Chief Joe Hall said. “In fact, the police department would not even have known something was wrong until 5 o’ clock this afternoon if those inmates had not taken the action they did.”
The City of Bartow has nothing to do with the prisoner work detail, they just provide the truck to transport them back and forth from the Polk Corrections Institution. Some of the vehicles are equipped with GPS, not this one. That is something Hall said, in light of this recent incident, should be looked at immediately.
People who live across the street from Mosaic Park said they bring their grandchildren inside whenever the prisoners are out working.
“I don't want them seeing young kids,” Kathy Ebrahim said. “You don't know what kind of prisoners they are.”
Ebrahim wants to know why there wasn’t another officer there for backup and also why the officer was not armed.
“He had a knife, but what if the deputy had a gun,” Ebrahim said. Assuming this would’ve never happened if the corrections officer was armed. Hall explained officers are not armed in case something like this happens an inmate won’t get access to a gun and use it to escape putting more lives in danger.
Investigators were able to track the correction officer’s cell phone to a location in Pinellas County in St. Petersburg near Tropical Terrace and Coral Way in St. Petersburg.
The officer was able to escape and was found at a nearby grocery store. He was not hurt.
Ross was set to be released in February of 2019. He was in prison for numerous felony convictions that included Battery on a LEO and Fraud charges. Ross was set to be released from custody in February of 2019 and was in minimal level custody at the Polk Work Camp.
Ross is currently facing charges in both Pinellas and Polk county.
In Pinellas County, Ross faces charges of unlawful possession of a concealed handcuff key, driving while driver's license suspended/revoked, and resisting an officer without violence.
In Polk County, Ross faces charges of armed kidnapping of a correctional officer, armed robbery and burglary of a motor vehicle, and aggravated assault of a correctional officer and escape.
Alberto C. Moscoso, the Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections released this statement regarding the attempted escape:
Today, an inmate escaped Department custody while assigned to a work squad supporting Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) operations. At approximately 12:17 p.m. EST, inmate David Ross (262580) attacked his supervising correctional officer with an improvised sharp object and departed the work site with the officer in their assigned Bartow Parks and Recreation vehicle. At approximately 1:53 p.m., local law enforcement stopped the vehicle in Pinellas County. Though he initially attempted to flee on foot, the inmate surrendered peacefully.
Due largely to the timely response and consummate professionalism of Department staff and our partners in law enforcement, this incident was resolved in under two hours with no use of force, no loss of life and no serious injuries. Inmate Ross is currently housed in the Pinellas County Jail.
Department staff will review this incident to determine the cause and evaluate the response. As this case is subject to an open and active criminal investigation, this is all of the information available at this time.