Chandler Escape Ends In Peaceful Pittsfield Recapture

Jul 12, 2019

After four days on the lam, an escaped inmate was recaptured in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Thursday.

Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler addressed reporters at the House of Correction in Pittsfield.

“Shortly after 2 p.m. this afternoon on Thursday, July 11th, Harry Chandler Jr. was safely taken back into custody of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office,” announced the sheriff.

Chandler – who has no official address or occupation – has a record with almost 50 entries stretching back to 2001 with as many as 10 currently open warrants.

“He was apprehended by Pittsfield Police Department on a warrant on July 3rd. He went to court, he was placed in our custody," explained Bowler. "Once he was placed in our custody, our medical staff deemed it necessary that he go to the hospital, so from July 3rd until Monday afternoon he was at the hospital.”

Chandler overpowered his detail officer at Berkshire Medical Center and fled on foot on Monday afternoon. The ensuing search saw as many as 50 officers from several departments on the streets of Pittsfield for the following 96 hours.

“That would entail the Pittsfield Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, Dalton, Lanesborough, Lee, and Lenox Police Departments, the Western Mass Gang Taskforce, the United States Marshall’s Office, the New York State Police, the Connecticut State Police, the Millerton and Colonie Police Departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Massachusetts State Parole, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office – that’s Sheriff Nick Cocchi – and of course the entire staff of the Berkshire County’s Sheriff’s Office,” said Bowler.

New York State Police and local departments across the state line helped follow up on tips during the search. The FBI offered technical support.

Bowler also thanked Berkshire Health Systems, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, and District Attorney Andrea Harrington for their help with the investigation, as well as the Chandler family for its cooperation.

“I would also like to thank the public for all the tips," continued the sheriff. "Every tip that came in to our command center was followed through.”

The sheriff said hundreds of tips came in during the search, one of which led to Chandler’s apprehension at a home at 3 Robbins Ave, just over a mile from BMC in Pittsfield’s west side.

“We’ve been at that address numerous occasions during this investigation," said Bowler. "We knew that it was a location that he frequented, along with a number of other addresses in the city of Pittsfield, so this particular address he that had been going to – but we don’t believe he was there the entire time.”

Bowler said the residents – associates of Chandler’s – had cooperated with the investigation and were not facing charges at this time. The ongoing investigation will examine if Chandler received any assistance during his flight.

As for the inmate himself, Bowler said he turned himself in peacefully, understood the consequences of his actions, and was back in the house of correction.

“He’s tired, he’s exhausted," said the sheriff. "Our medical team are our mental health are assessing his situation right now.”

Bowler acknowledged that the situation had strained not just the law enforcement departments involved, but the city as a whole.

“I’d like to apologize to the city of Pittsfield for this particular incident, but I want to thank them and commend them for their understanding and their full support with this situation,” he told reporters.

“I think that when the public learns of this news, there will be a great deal of relief in the community," said Mayor Tyer. She explained that the city had worked to inform the public about the search as it happened.

“Our role in this city of Pittsfield was to provide the Sheriff’s department with whatever resources they needed," said Tyer. "And so as you can see, the Pittsfield Police Department played a significant role in the partnership with all these other law enforcement agencies to bring this to a resolution.”

The sheriff said his office’s protocol around assigning a single detail officer to inmates for medical visits would be reviewed.

“But I can tell you if Mr. Chandler has to go to the hospital now, there will be more than one officer with him,” he added.

Chandler was due to be arraigned Friday on three new charges: escape, assault and battery on a corrections officer, and assault and battery on emergency medical technician, ambulance operator, ambulance attendant or health care provider.

“Right now our main concern is now that he’s apprehended, we get the city back on track, get the people back to normal lifestyles, and see if we can’t get Mr. Chandler the help that he needs with his physical and mental state,” said Bowler.