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Louisiana inmate who pepper-sprayed a deputy and escaped during transport from hospital is captured, authorities say

By Melissa Alonso and Sara Smart, CNN

(CNN) — A Louisiana inmate is back in custody after he pepper-sprayed a sheriff’s deputy and escaped while being returned to jail after medical treatment, authorities said.

Police located Leon Ruffin, 51, at a hotel in New Orleans and took him into custody, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said in a Tuesday news conference.

Ruffin had been in custody since July “for a second-degree murder – for life in prison at this point,” Lopinto said earlier this week. “I definitely consider him dangerous by all means.”

Early Sunday morning, Ruffin was taken to a hospital after authorities say he faked a seizure and fell out of his wheelchair, hitting his head, according to Lopinto.

At about 6:40 p.m., he was discharged from Ochsner Medical Center in suburban Gretna and put into the back of a patrol vehicle to be taken back to the correctional facility, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.

As the deputy was driving, Ruffin yelled out that the medical boot on his leg was causing him pain, Lopinto said. The “deputy got out of the car, when she opened up the door … he pepper-sprayed her,” he said.

The deputy fired her service weapon at Ruffin at least once and it’s unknown if he was struck, according to the news release.

Ruffin then stole the deputy’s vehicle, according to the news release. Around 9:20 p.m., the unoccupied vehicle was located in nearby Algiers.

It is unclear how Ruffin got the pepper spray, the sheriff said, since the deputy still had her own with her. The deputy was treated for the exposure to the spray at the same hospital, he said.

“Hindsight 20/20. We probably should have done a whole lot different, but sometimes you got to take their word, the medical staff’s word, of what’s wrong with him. Unfortunately, he gamed the system in order to be able to take advantage of that situation,” Lopinto said at the news conference.

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