Updated: July 11, 2019, at 6:02 p.m. Completely re-written story following the press conference at the Berkshire County House of Correction.
Sheriff Thomas Bowler held a press conference Thursday evening to update the public on the capture of 33-year-old Harry Chandler Jr.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Harry Chandler Jr. was taken into custody at an apartment on Robbins Avenue Thursday, after almost exactly three days on the run.
The Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, Hampden County Sheriff's Office, Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force, and Pittsfield Police apprehended Chandler inside the apartment at 3 Robbins Ave. around 2:30 in the afternoon with no incident. Chandler had been on the run since Monday when he overpowered a Sheriff's deputy and escaped from Berkshire Medical Center.
"This puts a lot of stress on our department, our agencies, the mayor of the city of Pittsfield, the district attorney's office. It puts a lot of stress on the city of Pittsfield. Having this positive end result puts a lot of anxiety to rest and it feels good," Sheriff Thomas Bowler said at a press conference Thursday.
The 33-year-old had been arrested on July 3 on outstanding warrants for charges of breaking and entering, assaulting a police officer, drug possession, trespass, shoplifting, assault, and battery with a dangerous weapon and failing to register as a sex offender. He was briefly taken to the Berkshire County House of Corrections before being taken to the hospital that same day to treat infections in his hands.
Chandler was being released from the hospital so was uncuffed to change from medical garments into jail garments when he assaulted the corrections officer and fled the hospital. Multiple law enforcement agencies "saturated" the city around the clock for the last three days in search of him.
"I think he's exhausted. He has some physical and some medical conditions that he's dealing with and the thought that you are trying to evade 50 police officers who have saturated this city since Monday afternoon, he was tired," Bowler said, saying Chandler had peacefully gone into custody.
The agencies involved were: Pittsfield Police, Massachusetts State Police, Dalton, Lanesborough, Lee and Lenox Police, the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force, the U.S. Marshal's Office, the New York State Police, Connecticut State Police, Millerton, and Colonie, N.Y. Police, the FBI, Massachusetts State Parole, the Hampden County Sheriff's Office, and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office. Bowler described the response and search as a collaborative effort.
Bowler thanked those agencies, as well as the support provided by Berkshire Medical Center, the district attorney's office, and Mayor Linda Tyer. He thanked the officer who Chandler assaulted for shaking off his injuries and coming back to work the next day to help with the investigation.
He both apologized to the general public and commended the public for providing tips - as well as praised the media for sharing information with the public.
"I would like to apologize to the city of Pittsfield for this particular incident but I want to thank them and commend them for their understanding and their full support with this situation," Bowler said.
It was a tip that led to the capture, Bowler said. He said officers had known Chandler frequently visited there and knew the residents. Law Enforcement went to the address multiple times during the last three days looking for him. Eventually, he was seen there and a tip was provided to the office.
"We knew it was a location he frequented, along with several other addresses in the city of Pittsfield, so this is a particular address he had been going to but we don't believe he was there the entire time," Bowler said.
Bowler had previously hoped Chandler would turn himself in but that was not the case, though many on social media are saying that he had.
"He did not call us. We knew he didn't have a cell phone with him. He may have had access to a cell phone through some of his known associated but he personally did not reach out to any officer," Bowler said.
The sheriff said the residents of the home were cooperative with the investigation and will not be facing any charges. Bowler isn't sure if Chandler had received any help during those three days but an investigation will be ongoing.
Bowler said Chandler had changed his appearance by cutting his hair. He will be facing additional charges related to the escape, assault and battery on a correctional officer, and possible charges could be added for assault of a nurse at the hospital.
The sheriff said the public provided a large number of tips and said every one was followed up on with some 25 to 30 officers on the case at all times during the last three days.
"You can never take anything for granted, you have to follow through. Sometimes the tips don't seem too credible but whether they are credible or not you have to do your due diligence. The tips are very vital," Bowler said.
The resolution comes at a great relief to Tyer, who said the escaped caused a lot of "anxiety" in the city.
"There was certainly some anxiety about this situation and our goal was to inform the public as much as possible as to the activities that were taking place, led by the Sheriff's Department, and I think that when the public learns of this news, there will be a great deal of relief," Tyer said.
"Our role in the city of Pittsfield was to provide the Sheriff's Department with whatever resources they needed. The Pittsfield Police Department played a significant role in this partnership with all the other law enforcement agencies to bring this to a resolution."
Chandler, originally from Dalton, had a violent criminal history and he was a trained and highly skilled Judo fighter. But he had also struggled with addiction for a number of years and was ultimately homeless.
His family was very involved in the search when he escaped, working with the sheriff's office, posting on social media asking for him to turn himself in, and expressing genuine concern for his wellbeing.
"They wanted to see him safe and they wanted to see him get treated and get better," Bowler said.
Bowler said he will assess whether or not protocols need to be updated following the incident, but promised that if Chandler does have to go to the hospital again there will be more than one officer on him.
Chandler is expected to be arraigned in court on Friday.