Sheriff's office reviews medical furlough policy after inmate escapes, steals car with baby inside

CLEVELAND - The Lake County Sheriff's Office is taking a closer look at its medical furlough policy after an inmate walked out of MetroHealth Hospital and stole a car with a baby inside on Monday.

Travis Burke was sent to the Lake County jail after he was arrested on Friday for misdemeanor drug charges. Sheriff Dan Dunlap said on Monday morning, Burke attempted to hang himself inside the holding cell. At the time, officials believed Burke had a serious neck or spinal injury. But now the sheriff wonders if it was all a ploy to escape police custody.

Dunlap said after Burke's suicide attempt, he was airlifted to Tripoint Hospital, then later he was taken to Metro Health.

"The word that we had was that he was potentially incapacitated," Dunlap said. 

A judge then granted Burke a medical furlough, which allows inmates with misdemeanor offenses to be released while being treated.

Sheriff Dunlap said based on his record, Burke didn’t seem like a threat.

It looks like they were wrong. Burke escaped MetroHealth on Monday and stole a car from a driveway a few blocks away. The car had a baby inside. He eventually ditched the car and the baby in Lakewood. Police later caught him on Cleveland's east side.

RELATED: Psychiatric patient found on east side after escaping from MetroHealth

Dunlap said Burke isn’t the only inmate who has taken advantage of the system. In January 2017, an inmate on unsupervised medical furlough at Cleveland Clinic pulled off his wires and walked out. One month before, a Fairview Park inmate left the hospital still in his hospital gown.

“We’ve had a lot of them fake heart attacks. There is a lot of judgment calls required,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap said there is no cut and dry method to granting medical furloughs, but this incident was a wakeup call. 

Burke is looking at some serious charges, including grand theft, aggravated burglary and kidnapping. Under Ohio law, an inmate that escapes after being granted medical furlough is also charged with escape.

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