Escapee from psychiatric hospital charged with kidnapping, assaulting group home worker, authorities say

Coleman pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of his father in 2017. Coleman had initially been charged with second-degree murder. He told authorities the shooting was an accident. He was being held at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington. His next hearing in the manslaughter case is Oct. 23.

An arrest affidavit filed in court says St. Elizabeths staff discovered Coleman missing at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. The affidavit says that in his place, workers found “a decoy made of sheets, towels and blue painters tape constructed in a manner to mimic the form of a human body.”

A review of surveillance video showed Coleman leaving his room Saturday night, walking down a corridor and entering a secured room near the exit, the affidavit says. He remained there for several minutes, then left by “manipulating the door,” the affidavit says. The court documents do not elaborate on how he opened the door.

That led him to the exit. Police said they found a blue tub next to a fence that appears to be where Coleman left the grounds. The court documents do not describe how he got over or through the fence.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health said in a statement that the hospital has “strict security protocols” and that administrators are working to determine whether proper procedures were followed.

Police said the hospital notified them on Sunday. Police alerted the public on Monday.

D.C. police said that at some point, Coleman made it from the hospital near Congress Heights to a group home on Chaplin Street SE, nearly five miles away in Benning Ridge, where he met up with a man identified as William Edwards, 22, early Wednesday.

Court documents say Edwards and Coleman met at St. Elizabeths, where Coleman had been housed awaiting trial on a child sexual abuse offense. D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal E. Kravitz had granted Coleman’s request in May to move to the group home because of the coronavirus crisis. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said prosecutors had opposed his release, though they did not file a written motion.

Police said Edwards stepped outside the group home shortly after 4 a.m. on Wednesday and met with Coleman. They went back inside the home, where police said they attacked a night-shift worker at the facility.

Arrest affidavits for both men say they used stun guns on the worker. The documents say Edwards handcuffed the victim, stabbed him in the hands and took him to the basement.

Police said the worker’s money, credit cards, ATM card and keys to his Chevy Tahoe were taken. They said Edwards stayed with the handcuffed man while Coleman took his vehicle and drove to several banks to withdraw several hundred dollars.

After about two to three hours, police said the worker was released. He flagged down a police officer and Edwards was arrested and charged with armed kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Members of the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force arrested Coleman about 5 p.m. Wednesday on Hillside Road in Southeast Washington.

Attorneys for Edwards and Coleman could not be reached on Thursday. The operators of the group home also could not be reached for comment.

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