Washington judge jumps from bench, ditches his robe to chase down fleeing inmates

Washington judge jumps from bench, ditches his robe to chase down fleeing inmates
Judge R.W. Buzzard is being hailed as a hero after chasing down two escaped inmates Tuesday from his Lewis County courtroom in Washington state. (Image source: Video screencap)

A judge in Washington state is being hailed as a hero after chasing down two inmates who fled from his Lewis County courtroom.

What happened?

Defendants Kodey Howard and Tanner Jacobson ran — while still wearing handcuffs and jail sandals — during a courtroom appearance on Tuesday. Presiding Judge R.W. Buzzard quickly leapt from behind the bench, threw off his robe and chased after the escapees.

Howard fell while running through a hallway after Jacobson, but recovered, and the two ran down three flights of stairs. After a short chase, Jacobson was apprehended by deputies a few blocks away from the courthouse. Meanwhile. Judge Buzzard grabbed Howard at the exit door in what he called a “bear hug” and held onto the inmate until law enforcement arrived “luckily about 10 seconds later.”

Buzzard later told KIRO-TV what was going through his mind as the suspects fled.

“Well, if they’re that desperate, what are they gonna do when they get into the public hallway, public stairwell, out the door?” he asked. “They’re desperate, and I don’t know what was going on, so I wanted to at least find out where they were going.”

Lewis County’s jail roster shows Howard was originally arrested on Oct. 15 on charges of trafficking in stolen property, burglary, and assault, while Jacobson was picked up the same day for reckless driving.

Sheriff Rob Snaza told the Daily Chronicle, “These things don’t happen very often. They’re few and far between.”

He explained that the one deputy who was in the courtroom when Howard and Jacobson fled didn’t chase after them because he had two other inmates to watch.

Where is the judge?

The judge is back on the bench, and Lewis County prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the Chronicle the county was looking at bolstering security, “Because quite frankly, I don’t like it when judges are jumping over the bench to chase people down … because that’s not what they’re trained to do.”

This isn’t the first time Judge Buzzard has had to step in to assist with security.

“In April, I had the unfortunate circumstance of having to wrestle a litigant to the floor who had attacked an attorney,” he told KATU-TV.   “I found out at that time that grappling in a robe is very restrictive.”