4 men charged in weekend escape from Quebec jail
Public helped investigators track down escaped inmates
The four men involved in Sunday's escape from a St-Jérôme detention centre were charged this afternoon with over a dozen offences.
The escaped prisoners Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, 36, and Dany Provencal, 33, were joined at the St-Jérôme courthouse by their alleged accomplices Mathieu Steven Marchisio, 21, and another man whose name has not yet been released.
The men face charges ranging from breaking and entering, pointing a firearm at police, fleeing from police, hijacking of an aircraft and kidnapping, among other offences.
They're expected back in court April 16.
Provencal and Hudon-Barbeau, who has reported ties to the Hells Angels, made a spectacular escape from a Quebec jail around 2 p.m. ET on Sunday by climbing to freedom on a rope lowered from a helicopter hovering over the jail.
The police operation to capture them lasted into Monday’s early morning hours and involved the deployment of police dogs, helicopters and negotiators.
Provincial police Sgt. Benoît Richard said the public also played a key part in the investigation. He told a news conference on Monday that public tips helped officers capture the inmates.
Fugitives, police exchange fire
From the very beginning, Richard said the fugitives were considered armed and dangerous.
Police said they suspect the helicopter pilot was forced at gunpoint to help the inmates escape.
After landing, the suspects got into a car and drove to a cabin in Chertsey, Que.
Richard said shots were fired at police when the suspects exited the vehicle, and officers returned fire. No one was hit.
The cabin's residents were able to flee safely.
Quebec provincial police had arrested two alleged accomplices and one of the prisoners by Sunday evening.
Police later tracked down and surrounded Provençal, who finally turned himself in just after midnight.
The helicopter pilot, who authorities tracked down about an hour after the escape, was taken to hospital and treated for shock. Authorities said he is an important witness.
Yves Galarneau, the correctional services manager who oversees the Saint-Jérôme jail, said he'd never seen anything like Sunday's dramatic escape in more than three decades on the job.
Galarneau said there are no security measures in place at the jail to prevent a helicopter from swooping down from above.
"As far as I know, it's a first in Quebec," he told reporters at the scene. "It's exceptional."
Benoit said none of the other inmates attempted to escape.
The two alleged accomplices are known to police.
Overcrowding at Saint-Jérôme jail
The head of the union representing Quebec’s prison guards (SAPSCQ) responded to Sunday’s dramatic jailbreak by drawing attention to what he said is a serious problem of overcrowding.
Stéphane Lemaire, president of SAPSCQ, said it’s difficult enough for guards to deal with day-to-day problems, let alone an escape by helicopter.
He said inmates are crowded into gyms and treated like numbers, sometimes even kept in wings along with members of rival gangs.
The facility at the centre of Sunday's escapade in Quebec is a provincial detention centre with a maximum-security wing.
The Saint-Jérôme jail, located some 60 kilometres northwest of Montreal, experienced a mini-riot by about a dozen prisoners a little over a month ago.
In that incident, police had been asked to secure the outside of the jail, which holds about 480 inmates, and facility staff used pepper spray to disperse the mob.
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the suspects as Yagé Beaudoin, based on information from the Quebec provincial police. Police have since said that the suspect falsely identified himself to them.Mar 22, 2013 6:11 AM ET
With files from The Canadian Press