How an alleged killer and another inmate escaped a Philadelphia prison. Here's what we know

Police tell Action News that one of the inmates, Ameen Hurst, 18, was being held on several murder charges.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Alleged killer among 2 who escaped Philly prison, undetected for hours
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Union President David Robinson told Action News that armed guards were not manning the exterior of the building where the inmates escaped, and that position had been eliminated due to budget cuts.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A manhunt is underway in Philadelphia after two inmates, including an alleged killer, escaped from a correctional center on Sunday night.

The escape happened around 8:30 p.m. when the individuals were seen on surveillance footage cutting a hole in a fence at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (P.I.C.C) located at 8301 State Road.

Action News is told by the union representing Philadelphia correctional officers that armed guards were not manning the exterior of the building where the inmates escaped, and that position had been eliminated due to budget cuts.

Police tell Action News that one of the inmates, Ameen Hurst, 18, was being held on several murder charges.

"This is like a scene out of a movie," said David Robinson, the union president of AFSCME LOCAL 159. "He murdered someone on this same gate at CFCF and he escaped the same department that detained him."

Deputy Commissioner of Investigations Frank Vanore said one homicide took place on Christmas Eve in 2020 on the 1800 block of Wynnewood Road.

Vanore stated that in March 2021, Hurst committed three more murders. He said Hurst shot four people and killed two behind an apartment building on North 76th Street on March 11, 2021.

Then, just days later on March 18, officials say Hurst shot and killed Rodney Hargrove roughly one hour after he was released from the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility.

READ | 16-year-old connected to 4 Philly murders, including shooting near prison

The second inmate who broke out of the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center is 24-year-old Nasir Grant, who police say was being held on narcotics and gun violations.

Officers say the only connection between the two inmates is that they were housed in the same unit but in different cells.

How prison break went undetected for hours

According to Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney, the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center became aware of the two escaped inmates around 3 p.m. Monday.

Carney says there were three headcounts which took place at 11 p.m. Sunday, 3 a.m. Monday, and 7 a.m. Monday before learning of the escape.

It's still unclear how the missing inmates went under the radar.

"So the facility became aware today at their 3 p.m. headcount that we had two individuals that were not accounted for. They're going back through the process to see if those three counts that were called in as cleared and why they did not detect those two individuals missing," said Carney.

Chopper 6 over the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center on May 8, 2023.

Action News asked Carney if she believed someone on her staff aided in the escape or if it was a case of negligence.

She responded by saying we would have to wait for an official investigation.

On Tuesday, Action News was there as Carney walked the prison grounds.

"We have to do the investigation to see what didn't happen. I'm a leader, I have to hold people accountable," she said.

Last week, the union representing the correctional officers voted "no confidence" in Commissioner Carney.

When asked if she'd resign in the wake of the prison break, Carney said, "No I'm not."

"There should have been armed officers on the outer perimeter, there were no armed officers on the outer perimeter and there hasn't been armed officers on the outer perimeter for months," Robinson said.

'There has been a lack of supervision'

The Pennsylvania Prison Society has been raising concerns about this prison for years.

"There are very clear issues with the way the jail is managed. We had 10 deaths in 2022," said Noah Barth of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, who is the prison monitoring director for the independent group.

He says he's seen problems here for years. He last inspected that facility in the fall.

"The staffing shortage and the mismanagement within the Philadelphia jails has manifested in dangerous and deadly manners every day on a daily basis," said Barth.

Barth says the recent escape points to the lack of monitoring behind these walls.

"The motivation to leave is obvious. Additionally, there has been a lack of supervision," he says.

Staffing is down about 40% at the prison.

Reactions to prison break

Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news conference Monday evening that they want to find out exactly what happened.

"Clearly the system screwed up and people didn't do what they're supposed to do," Kenney said.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also released the following statement regarding the incident on Tuesday:

"The DA's Office is in contact with the families impacted by the homicides we allege were committed by Ameen Hurst, as well as witnesses who may be called to provide testimony at trial. The safety of victims and witnesses who may be at risk of intimidation or retaliation is of the highest importance to our prosecutors and to the DA's Victim Support Services Division.

"The DA's Office is also in constant communication with Philadelphia Police and other law enforcement partners that are working with urgency to locate these fugitives, return them to state custody, and thoroughly investigate the incidents leading up to and immediately following the breach that occurred at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center on Sunday. We implore members of the public who have information about the location or activities of Ameen Hurst and Nasir Grant to contact the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-800-336-0102 or Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477)."

In the meantime, police officials ask the public to be cautious of these individuals.

The U.S. Marshals and Philadelphia police have a combined reward of $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest of each escaped inmate.

Officials say if you see either of the inmates or know of their whereabouts, call the police tip line at 215-546-TIPS or call 911 immediately.