Escaped Idaho inmate and suspected accomplice captured after manhunt

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The inmate who escaped from an Idaho prison and his suspected accomplice who shot corrections officers in Boise and set off a manhunt were taken into custody Thursday, and officials say they are investigating two other deaths that may be linked to the men.

Skylar Meade and Nicholas Umphenour were arrested in Twin Falls, Idaho, around 2 p.m. Thursday after a short car chase, Boise police Chief Ron Winegar said. No gunfire was exchanged during the arrests, and there was no “extensive use of force,” he said.

A third person, Tonia Huber, was also apprehended in connection with the case, according to a statement from the Twin Falls Sheriff’s Office. She was charged with eluding authorities, a felony offense, and possession of a controlled substance. No further details were given of her alleged involvement.

Idaho State Police are investigating two homicides in separate locations — one in Nez Perce County and one in Clearwater County — that may be linked to the escape and manhunt, Lt. Col. Sheldon Kelley said. Both homicides occurred within the last 24 hours, police said.

Police said handcuffs believed to have been worn by Meade when he escaped were found at the scene of one of the homicides.

The car the suspects were initially driving in their escape, a Honda Accord, was located in northern Idaho, police said Thursday. Officials allege the men then took another car that belonged to one of the homicide victims.

Police said the suspects “did have his car” but that they don’t have details on how they got the car.

The homicide investigation is ongoing, and the coroner’s office will provide the identities of the victims — both adult males — and causes of death, he said.

Officials have said that Meade and Umphenour, both members of a white supremacist gang, had planned the brazen attack that wounded three corrections officers in order to free Meade as he was being transported from a Boise hospital after he had injured himself, authorities said.

“What we know, with near certainty, this was not an accident,” said Josh Tewalt, director of the Corrections Department. “This was a planned event. And we’re channeling every resource we have into trying to understand exactly how they went about planning it.”

Skylar Meade.
Skylar Meade.Idaho Department of Correction via AP / AP

Meade, 31, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for shooting at a sheriff’s sergeant during a high-speed chase.

At 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, state Corrections Department officers were trying to transfer him back to the corrections facility after he was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for treatment, Boise police said.

Meade performed “injurious behavior” Tuesday night while at a maximum-security facility, and prison medical staff determined he needed to be treated at the hospital, where he arrived shortly before 10 p.m. local time, Tewalt said.

During the attempt to transfer Meade back to the corrections facility, Umphenour fired at the officers, police said. Two of the officers were shot — one faced non-life-threatening injuries while the other was stable in critical condition following the shooting.

The pair then fled the scene, setting off the manhunt that stretched into Thursday afternoon.

Security during Meade’s transfer was “augmented” because of his criminal history and Meade was wearing restraints, Tewalt said Thursday. He added he believes staff adhered to department policies.

Boise officers also responded to reports of an active shooter at the hospital, which was placed on a modified lockdown at the time of the incident, according to the police department.

One of the responding officers fired at an armed person who was at the entrance of the hospital, who was later determined to be a Corrections Department officer, police said. The officer sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Tewalt said Thursday that one of the officers was released from the hospital Wednesday night and that the other two remain at the hospital but are “stable” and “improving.”

Meade was being held in administrative segregation, a form of restrictive housing that is the highest custody level at the Corrections Department, at the time, Tewalt said Wednesday.

The Corrections Department is investigating how this incident could have happened, according to Tewalt. Police said they do not know what the motive was in the case.

Authorities said that both Meade and Umphenour are members of the Aryan Knights, “one of multiple security threat groups that we monitor and try to interrupt their activities.” Umphenour has also served time and the men’s sentences overlapped “on and off” at an Idaho maximum security institution from Dec. 29, 2022, to Jan. 17, 2024, Tewalt said, when Umphenour was released.

“Their gang involvement doesn’t necessarily indicate that this was a some sort of gang-sanctioned event,” Tewalt said Thursday.

The Aryan Knights are a gang within the Idaho prison system that formed in the mid-1990s to organize crime among a select group of white inmates and others who are not in custody, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in the district of Idaho. The group has white supremacist and white separatist ideologies and was believed to have over 100 members inside and outside of Idaho prisons as of 2021.

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