Judiciary

See the video: Judge chases fleeing inmates, catches one before he escapes building

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A judge in Washington state isn’t afraid to get involved when someone in his courtroom misbehaves.

The Lewis County judge, R.W. Buzzard, was recorded on courthouse video last week chasing two handcuffed inmates who ran from his third-floor courtroom, report the Associated Press, the Daily Chronicle and KOMO News.

Buzzard chased the men down the courthouse stairs and caught one of them before he was able to leave the building. The second man was caught a few blocks from the courthouse.

“I was shocked at first,” Buzzard told KOMO News. “I didn’t know what to think.”

One of the inmates tripped before following the other into the stairwell. “Once I got to the stairwell I knew I was going to be able to catch the one that was just in front of me because I immediately started gaining on him,” Buzzard said. “I was yelling at them all the way down the stairs to ‘stop, you’re making things worse.’ “

There was a deputy in the courtroom, but he didn’t give chase because he was watching two other inmates, Sheriff Rob Snaza told the Daily Chronicle. Both inmates were charged with second-degree escape.

Buzzard also intervened in April when a litigant in a civil case attacked an opposing lawyer. The litigant became agitated when Buzzard ruled against him, according to a sheriff’s office report cited by the Daily Chronicle. The litigant said: “So that’s how it’s going to be,” then turned and punched the opposing lawyer, the report said.

Buzzard then left the bench and restrained the litigant with the help of bystanders, according to the Chronicle. Buzzard told KIRO 7 that it was the first time in 14 years on the bench that someone had gotten violent in his courtroom.

“I never expected an assault to occur in a courtroom,” Buzzard told KIRO 7. “I guess wishful thinking.”

Buzzard did have some prior concerns about safety, however.

A suit by a fired clerk had alleged she once found a loaded gun in a desk drawer in Buzzard’s office, according to a Daily Chronicle story published in February. Buzzard didn’t deny the claim but said it had nothing to do with the clerk’s firing. The gun is now kept in a courthouse safe, he said.

“I mainly have my gun to walk from the parking lot to the building,” he told the Chronicle. “I don’t take it on the bench. I’m not roaming the halls with it.”

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