Shootout with Ala. escapees jolts tiny ND town - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Shootout with Ala. escapees jolts tiny ND town

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Posted: Sunday, June 7, 2009 3:33 pm | Updated: 2:57 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

GLADSTONE, N.D. - Residents in this tiny North Dakota town were jarred from their sleep with calls from authorities: Lock your doors until four suspects in an Alabama prison break are safely in custody.

The suspects had holed up in a garage and held off authorities for more than 14 hours Saturday before two of them surrendered and two were wounded in a shootout with police.

"We do have some excitement around here every once in a while and this is one of those times," said Lillian Bondell, tending her garden with her husband, Ben, on Sunday in Gladstone. "It's not usually a lively town."

Authorities on Saturday cordoned off the community of about 200 along Interstate 94, about 85 miles west of Bismarck. Some 40 officers had surrounded a ranch where two prison escapees and two women accused of helping them had made their stand with police. They also warned people to lock up in a place that usually doesn't worry about security.

"I locked the doors and turned out the lights and made ourselves as inconspicuous as I could. My husband stayed in bed," Lillian Bondell said.

Joshua Southwick, 26, and Ashton Mink, 22, had escaped nearly two weeks ago from the Perry County Detention Center in Uniontown, Ala., and had eluded officers in at least seven states, authorities said. With them were Mink's sister, Angela, 25, and his wife, Jacquelin, 25.

Authorities said officers were preparing to use tear gas on the detached garage around 2:25 p.m., when Southwick and Angela Mink walked out and were arrested. Ashton and Jacquelin Mink ran out the back of the building, and gunfire was exchanged. Authorities said the two were wounded but their conditions were not released.

Stark County Prosecutor Tom Henning said he expects charges of robbery, attempted murder and conspiracy to be filed Monday.

Authorities first thought they were dealing with suspects in a video store robbery in nearby Dickinson. A Highway Patrol trooper chased the suspects' car toward Gladstone at speeds up to 100 mph, Henning and Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said. Shots were fired at the Highway Patrol trooper's windshield but he was not hurt.

A rancher in Gladstone called soon afterward to report someone was in his garage, which was about 50 feet from his home.

"We put two and two together," Tuhy said.

The rancher and his family got out of the house.

Officers ran a check on the suspects' license plates and knew they were dealing with prison escapees. Henning said a rifle, handguns and camping equipment were found in the car. Authorities used a robot to take a cell phone and cigarettes to the suspects. Later, "two of them gave up and two of them came out the side door shooting," Tuhy said.

"Everybody is glad is turned out the way it did. Fortunately, no officers or the public were hurt. Unfortunately, two people were shot, and that's just part of our job. What are you going to do?" the sheriff said.

Southwick and Ashton Mink had escaped in Alabama on May 25, after the women hid in the woods outside the prison during a storm and cut the electric fence, authorities said. Southwick and Ashton Mink changed into a pair of uniforms normally worn by kitchen workers and were mistakenly allowed outside the prison, corrections authorities said. Seven employees at the privately owned prison were fired after the escape.

Southwick had pleaded guilty to murder and burglary in a slaying six years ago. Mink was serving time for attempted murder in a stabbing during a home invasion.

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