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Idaho prisoner transports: What we now know about the Boise hospital ambush

Skylar Meade and Nicholas Umphenour, right, appeared in 4th District Court via video conference, Monday, March 25, 2024, to be arraigned on charges stemming from an organized prison break while being transported to a Boise hospital. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — It’s been over two weeks since an Idaho prisoner escaped from custody after Idaho Department of Correction staffers were ambushed and fired on at the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in the Boise Bench.
Police have since identified the escaped prisoner as Skylar Meade, 31, and the man who shot at IDOC officials as Nicholas Umphenour, 28. Police also connected them with two homicides in northern Idaho that occurred shortly after the escape.
A statewide manhunt following the escape resulted in the arrest of Meade and Umphenour in the Twin Falls area. A third suspect, Tonia Huber, 52, was arrested alongside Meade and charged with harboring a fugitive, eluding an officer in a motor vehicle and possessing a controlled substance.
Umphenour faces five felony charges: three counts of aggravated battery or assault against law enforcement, use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony and aiding and abetting an escape, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office. Meade faces a single count of felony escape.
Here’s what we know about the suspects and how we got here.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE SUSPECTS?
Meade and Umphenour have a history with law enforcement dating back over a decade. Both men were intermittently housed together in prison and are also members of the Aryan Knights, a white supremacist prison gang, according to police.
At the time of his escape, Meade was serving time for an officer assault, drug possession and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to court records.
Those charges stem from an incident in 2016, when a Twin Falls sheriff attempted to pull over Meade’s vehicle for a traffic stop. Meade, who had pending misdemeanor drug charges at the time, sped away from the sheriff and fired three shots at him while driving away and swerved off the road into a field. Officers found at least 0.2 grams of methamphetamine in Meade’s pocket, according to an affidavit.
A judge sentenced Meade to 20 years with 10 years fixed for those crimes.
Meade was previously sentenced to five years in prison with three years fixed for a 2010 felony theft charge, according to court records. IDOC director Josh Tewalt said Meade was housed in administrative segregation, more commonly known as solitary confinement, before his escape.
Umphenour has had three separate instances in prison as an adult.
The first, in August 2014, was for unlawfully hunting and taking multiple big game animals. He was released on supervised probation but subsequently was arrested for felony burglary in 2016, extending his sentence to 2018.
Umphenour also faced several charges that were later dropped for a January 2019 incident in Clearwater County, where police said he threatened a woman with a knife, hit a man and later threatened an officer. The charges included aggravated assault, battery, resisting or obstructing an officer, threatening an official, disturbing the peace and contempt of court, according to previous Idaho Statesman reporting, but those charges were later dropped.
Less than a year after his release, Umphenour was charged and later found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and grand theft in Clearwater County. He was released for those crimes on Jan. 17 of this year.
HOW DID MEADE AND UMPHENOUR ESCAPE?
Authorities said Meade was initially taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for self-inflicted wounds and was being taken back to prison around 2 a.m. on March 20 when Umphenour opened fire on officers.
Umphenour’s bullets injured two IDOC staffers. A third armed IDOC officer was accidentally shot by a Boise officer, according to Boise police. Meade and Umphenour managed to flee in a vehicle during the chaos. All three officers have been released and as of Friday were recovering, IDOC spokesperson Sanda Kuzeta-Cerimagic told the Statesman.
A fourth suspect, 27-year-old Tia Garcia, of Twin Falls, was charged with aiding and abetting escape. Garcia had picked Umphenour up from the Boise Airport days before the police and provided him with the vehicle to escape, according to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.
Kuzeta-Cerimagic told the Statesman that two officers typically accompany a prisoner for medical visits, but because of Meade’s security level, three officers were transporting him.
Tewalt recently said in a Board of Correction meeting that IDOC had confiscated more cellphones in 2024 than any other year. Kuzeta-Cerimagic told the Statesman that a contraband cellphone likely contributed to the escape.
Following the escape, Kuzeta-Cerimagic said IDOC implemented numerous new policy changes for transporting prisoners.
“We increased the armed security presence for certain unscheduled medical transports” and changed procedures around prisoners entering and exiting hospitals, Kuzeta-Cerimagic said in an email. “Additionally, we’ve implemented enhanced protocols for coordinating certain transports with receiving hospitals and partner law enforcement agencies.”
WHERE DID THE SUSPECTS TRAVEL?
Following the hospital ambush, the suspects fled to North Idaho, staying there for less than 24 hours before traveling through Missoula, Montana, and returning back south in an almost full circle around the state.
Just after 2 a.m. March 20, Umphenour and Meade fled Saint Alphonsus and likely took either Idaho 55 or U.S. 95 north toward the Lewiston area, where state police alleged the suspects killed two men. It’s unclear exactly when the men were killed — and state police declined to provide any additional information for this story — but the Clearwater County Coroner’s Office said one of the victims, 72-year-old Don Henderson, was killed around 1 p.m. PST March 20.
The Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office said in a release that deputies discovered Henderson’s body in his Orofino home after his partner asked for a welfare check around 8 p.m. March 20, and that the suspects were “several hours” out of the county when they received the call.
Nez Perce County Coroner Joshua Hall didn’t respond to a request seeking the time of death for the other victim, 83-year-old James Mauney. Mauney, of Juliaetta, didn’t return home after a morning walk near Julietta with his dogs, prompting the Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office to issue a missing person alert. Police said they later found his body in a “desolate area” near Leland, about 10 miles east of Juliaetta.
By early March 21, Umphenour and Meade had been spotted in Missoula, according to a Facebook post from the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office. The two then headed to the Twin Falls area, where they were arrested later that day.
Huber, of Filer, was found in the vehicle alongside Meade, according to police.
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION?
Idaho State Police spokesperson Aaron Snell declined to answer a detailed list of questions sent by the Statesman, including an update on the homicide investigation and when additional charges might be filed.
“The case remains under investigation, and we do not have anything additional to provide,” Snell said by email.
The post Idaho prisoner transports: What we now know about the Boise hospital ambush appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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