A prisoner escaped custody Monday morning when a masked man with a handgun confronted two corrections officers outside a Peace River hospital and demanded they release the man they were transporting.

A third man acted as getaway driver.

Harley John Lay

Harley John Lay was being escorted to a medical appointment when his guards were jumped by an armed man wearing a mask. (RCMP)

Harley John Lay, 29, was being escorted to hospital for a medical appointment at about 10 a.m. local time.

Police say a man with a handgun, his face concealed by a mask, walked up to the corrections officers in the hospital parking lot and demanded they release Lay.

The officers were not armed and did not resist.

Lay and his companion jumped into a beige Dodge minivan. Police say the van was last seen in Peace River on 74th Street, possibly headed toward Highway 2.

RCMP across much of northwest Alberta, including aircraft, were involved in a manhunt for Lay and his companions.

Lay was being held on remand at the Peace River Correctional Facility awaiting a trial date.

He was scheduled to go to trial in May on 16 charges, including assaulting an RCMP officer with bear spray, evading police, unlawful confinement, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and four counts of failing to comply with bail conditions.

His criminal record dates back to 2004.

People are being advised not to approach the men.

Anyone with information about Lay, the men who helped him escape or the van is asked to call Peace River RCMP.

Peace River is about 490 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.


  • Due to incorrect information provided by RCMP, an earlier version of this story reported that the correctional officers were armed. In fact, corrections officers in Alberta do not carry firearms.
    Jan 25, 2016 4:58 PM MT