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Inmate-patient stabs 4 in foiled escape

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Jason Meisner

A murder defendant being held without bail escaped a skin clinic at Stroger Hospital of Cook County this afternoon, boarded a shuttle bus parked outside and stabbed the driver and a responding sheriff's police officer with a homemade shank, authorities said.

No one was seriously hurt in the attack, which occurred around 2 p.m. outside the hospital, 1901 W. Harrison St., Cook County sheriff's office spokesman Bill Cunningham said.

Willis Reese, 25, who has been held without bail on murder charges since 2002, was taken from a maximum security wing of the jail to see a dermatologist for treatment of a skin condition this afternoon, Cunningham said.

While in the clinic, Reese produced what appeared to be a homemade shank from his jail clothing and attempted to stab the male nurse who was treating him, Cunningham said.

"A Cook County corrections officer who was escorting him as well as a patient who came to their aide struggled with the inmate," Cunningham said. "He held them off with the shank and attempted to flee the clinic."

Cunningham said Reese, who was wearing leg shackles, jumped on a shuttle bus parked outside the clinic, confronted the driver and stabbed him with the shank. Before the suspect could gain control of the bus, the corrections officer and several members of the Stroger security staff caught up with him and brought him under control.

In all, four people suffered "superficial" wounds in the incident, including the bus driver, corrections officer and nurse, Cunningham said. They were treated and released from Stroger Hospital, he said.

Reese was being taken back to the Cook County Jail's Division 9 complex this afternoon, Cunningham said. Details of his murder case were not immediately available.

A woman who identified herself only as Kathy said she was on the shuttle bus when the attack occurred. She said the bus was taking civilians to and from the hospital and the nearby Juvenile Detention Center.

The bus was parked outside when a "young man" dressed in brown jail clothing ran from the hospital and boarded the vehicle brandishing a long, thin knife that resembled an ice pick, she said.

"He hopped on the shuttle bus and told the driver to drive or he'd kill him," she said. The man then stabbed the driver in the face and right shoulder before police boarded the bus and took him down, she said.

Cunningham said the metal shank was approximately 4 to 5 inches long and sharpened to a point at one end. He did not know how Reese was able to smuggle it out of the jail.

Charges stemming from the incident were pending this afternoon, Cunningham said.

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