Lumpkin inmate escapes into storm after surgery
A Lumpkin County inmate walked out of Northeast Georgia Medical Center and into the storm early Tuesday morning after receiving emergency surgery, according to Sheriff Stacy Jarrard.
Steven Smith, 26, was transported to the Gainesville hospital earlier in the week and was diagnosed with appendicitis.
“They ended up doing an operation on him,” said Jarrard.
It was after that operation, when staff assumed the Clarkesville resident was still in recovery, that he reportedly got up from his bed and walked out of the hospital.
“He was able to get away after the surgical procedure because everybody thought he was not able,” said Lt. Alan Roach of the LCSO.
Meanwhile, Jarrard was traveling between emergency calls on the windblown storm-damaged roads of Dahlonega when he received word of the mishap.
He dispatched a team of 16 officers to the site to search the hospital grounds and nearby parking lots, but to no avail.
Smith was initially arrested in early August on drug and weapons charges.
On Tuesday morning, LCSO deputies were still responding to storm related calls as Roach spread the word of the escape.
“He is currently still out there,” he said. “We don’t have any good leads on his location. However we are following up on some investigative leads.”
Initially Jarrard expressed frustration with the circumstances that led to the escape.
“Somehow or other they botched it and he was able to leave the hospital,” he told The Nugget the morning after the escape.
On Wednesday he contacted the paper to express concerns that he “misspoke." Jarrard said the ultimate responsibility falls on the LCSO for guarding the prisoner.
In the case of Smith, a deputy had been assigned to this duty, he said.
“That was in no way intended to put the blame solely on them,” Jarrard said. “Because in the end, the blame comes to me.”
Sean Couch, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Director of PR and Marketing, said the incident has led to a better understanding of inmate/patient policy between the medical staff and the LCSO.
“We’re both here to serve the best interests of the community,” he said.
Meanwhile, LCSO officials have encouraged anyone with information on the whereabouts of Smith to call the LCSO at 706-864-0414.