The search continues for an inmate who escaped custody at a Pittsfield hospital Monday.
Law enforcement officials say Harry Chandler Jr., 33, assaulted a sheriff’s department officer while receiving treatment for injuries at Berkshire Medical Center and disappeared at 2 p.m. Monday.
“Officers from a host of law enforcement agencies have been conducting ongoing and continuous operations to apprehend Mr. Chandler," said Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler. He held a press conference in Pittsfield Tuesday afternoon, flanked by Mayor Linda Tyer and Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington.
“Those operations are continuing, and at this time, we would encourage Mr. Chandler to turn himself in peacefully," said the sheriff. "We are working with members of his family, and have made contact with his attorney. We further would encourage the public to report possible sightings to the Berkshire County Sheriff’s office, the Pittsfield Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police.”
An officer assigned to the FBI is also assisting the investigation, which will allow the Sheriff’s office to use federal resources in the search. Bowler affirmed that his office had used a helicopter.
Chandler’s escape came at a crucial moment during his trip to the hospital.
“It was the process of changing from his hospital garments to his jail garments, and those items were – his handcuffs and shackles – were off at the time,” explained Bowler.
He escaped on foot after overpowering his lone guard, who the sheriff says has since recovered and is back at work.
Chandler had been under constant watch by a detail officer since his arrest on July 3rd by Pittsfield Police for outstanding warrants. A search for his name on the Massachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access database revealed almost 50 entries stretching back to 2001. They include charges of vandalism, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and numerous violations of domestic abuse-related restraining orders. His eight open cases range from failing to register as a sex offender to possession of class B drugs. As of Tuesday, a new charge of assault and battery on a correctional facility employee was added to the list.
Bowler said that since Chandler’s escape, upwards of 50 officers between the three agencies have been following leads. He said the search has focused on Pittsfield and Chandler’s hometown of Dalton, and that there is so far no evidence to suggest that he has left the area.
“We do believe that he has some assaultive behavior, but he is obviously a concern for us and we hope to apprehend him as soon as possible,” said the sheriff.
While the sheriff says it seems like he doesn’t have access to any weapons, he confirmed that Chandler is skilled in martial arts.
“The information we have is that he is very well experienced in either judo or jujitsu,” said Bowler.
The sheriff’s department has no official address on file for Chandler, suggesting he could be homeless. His appearance is thought to have changed from the mugshot provided to the media.
“Since his hospital stay, the mustache and goatee may have been removed, we think that that’s removed," said Bowler. "He does have a gash on his chin, but he still has some facial hair on the sides and the long hair.”
Carrie Chandler – Harry’s sister – posted a statement about her brother on social media earlier in the week, describing him as “losing the battle to the disease that is addiction.”
“Addiction has caused my vibrant brother to become a shell of himself,” said Chandler, “and someone that sleeps under bridges, scavenges or steals food and yes resist and run away from police officers stopping him from getting his next fix.” The message goes on to implore her brother to turn himself in. She says her family has been so “inundated with hateful messages” that her father was admitted to the hospital with chest pains, and put out a plea for understanding to the community.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Bowler said 30 officers were actively involved in the search. In addition to the new filed charge of assault and battery on a correctional officer, Chandler is now facing escape charges.