Escaped Louisiana inmate captured in hotel in New Orleans

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office

(NEW ORLEANS) — A convicted felon who escaped custody on Sunday after pepper spraying his transporting deputy and stealing her car was captured in New Orleans on Tuesday, authorities said.

Leon Ruffin, 51, who had been in custody on a second-degree murder charge, was found at a hotel in New Orleans East, with the help of New Orleans Police and the U.S. Marshals Service, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said in a media briefing Tuesday.

At about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ruffin was taken into custody at the hotel without incident, said Lopinto.

Search warrants are currently being conducted at the hotel. Authorities believe that Ruffin spent most of his time at the hotel during his escape.

Lopinto said he expects to arrest others for allegedly assisting Ruffin during the past few days.

Lopinto said that Ruffin will now face additional charges, including assaulting a police officer.

Ruffin was arrested in July 2023 and was in custody at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, authorities said. Since his arrest he had been treated for multiple injuries and was wheelchair-bound with a boot on his leg, the sheriff said.

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Sunday, Ruffin allegedly faked a seizure and fell out of his wheelchair, Lopinto said. He was transported to Ochsner Medical Center’s West Bank campus.

Ruffin was discharged nearly five hours later after a series of tests and put in the back of a sheriff’s vehicle inside a cage to head back to the correctional center, the sheriff said.

As a deputy started driving away from the hospital, Ruffin claimed that his boot was stuck under the cage, causing him pain, according to the sheriff. The deputy stopped the vehicle to check to see if she could fix the boot. As she opened the back, Ruffin pepper sprayed her, removed his boot and stole the vehicle, according to Lopinto. He was not handcuffed or shackled at the time due to his injuries, the sheriff said.

“She treated somebody with compassion that doesn’t deserve compassion, to be honest with you,” Lopinto said during a press briefing earlier Tuesday, adding that they believe he was “milking” his leg injury.

The deputy fired multiple shots as Ruffin was driving away, but there is no indication that he was hit, the sheriff said.

The vehicle was found two and a half hours later, according to Lopinto.

It was unclear where the suspect obtained the pepper spray, authorities previously said. The deputy still had her pepper spray, taser and weapon following his escape.

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