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Canadian Prison Escapees May Have Crossed Into United States

June 10, 1988

LAVAL, Quebec (AP) _ Three inmates who shot a guard while escaping from a maximum-security prison may have fled to the United States after releasing their two hostages, provincial authorities said.

The escapees, two of whom were believed to be wounded in a gun battle with guards, commandeered a car Thursday outside the Laval Institute, a prison north of Montreal.

They took both its driver and a guard with them. The guard, Therese Gagne, and the motorist, an unidentified middle-aged woman, were found unharmed three hours later at a farmhouse about 20 miles from the prison. They phoned police from Candiac, about 30 miles from the New York state border.

Constable Andre Blanchette, a provincial police spokesman, said the two women reported that one of the convicts was shot in the elbow and another in the shoulder.

Paul Fournier, assistant director of the institute, said the injured prison guard, Pierre Blouin, was shot in the shoulder and leg but was expected to survive.

The escapees were identified as Rene St-Arnaud, 26, serving 12 years for armed robbery; his brother Pierre, 24, serving seven years for robbery; and Robert Henley, 29, serving life for murder.

The elder St-Arnaud has a large spider web tattooed on his forehead, Blanchette said.

″They could be anywhere, including the United States,″ he said.

The breakout began about 10:30 a.m. as Gagne was returning to her post after checking a disturbance in one of four workshops she guards from a tower. Fournier and Pierre Chapleau, an official with the guards’ union, said the three prisoners overpowered her, grabbed her rifle and revolver and took her hostage as other guards went to help.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, the prisoners drove a forklift to the prison wall, scaled it, threw down a 36-foot-long hose, descended with Gagne, then ran, Chapleau said.

Chapleau said Blouin, posted in a tower on the wall surrounding the prison, was shot at ″whenever he popped his head out to see what was happening.″

A few minutes later, the prisoners and Gagne were spotted by two guards who were searching a truck belonging to a courier company, authorities said.

Yves Dube, driver of the truck, said a gunfight broke out between the guards and two of the prisoners.

″I didn’t hang around to see what happened,″ he said, ″but I heard about 30 to 40 shots,″ he said.

Fournier said the convicts stopped the passing car, forced the driver to go wth them and headed toward Montreal.

The medieval-looking prison, called St-Vincent-de-Paul Penitentiary when it was opened in 1873 on Ile-Jesus, now the city of Laval, has been witness to many escapes, hostage-takings and disturbances.

In August 1980, a bungled escape attempt that left one convict dead turned into a three-day drama when nine prisoners held eight hostages before finally surrendering.