The Tennessee man credited with holding two dangerous fugitives until police arrived to apprehend them spoke for the first time Friday about the ordeal.
An emotional Patrick Hale said at a press conference that all he was concerned about was his daughter when escaped Georgia inmates Donnie Russell Rowe and Ricky Dubose crawled through barbed-wire and into his yard Thursday evening.
“I prayed like I had never prayed before,” said the 35-year-old father.
He grabbed his gun and daughter and went out to the car. As he was about to pull away, he noticed the inmates edging closer, but they dropped to the ground. Hale believes they surrendered because his car resembles a police-type cruiser.
RELATED: How the fugitives were caught
Those harrowing minutes for Hale marked the end of a three-day manhunt for the two inmates who allegedly shot and killed two Georgia correctional officers on board a prison transport bus before escaping.
Looking subdued the morning after they led police in Tennessee on a high-speed chase with bullets flying, Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell Rowe appeared before a Rutherford County judge Friday morning. They were shackled and surrounded by police officers.
Both men waived their right to an extradition hearing, meaning they’ll return to Georgia to face charges in the killing of correctional officers Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica along a rural stretch of highway east of Atlanta.
Putnam County, Ga., Sheriff Howard Sills said he will pick up both inmates over the next few days. He declined to say exactly when.
“The gang situation is (a) concern of ours,” Sills said.
They will appear before a Putnam County judge as soon as they get to Eatonton.
Rowe and Dubose were captured after three days on the run.
Around 2 p.m. Thursday, they forced their way into a home in Shelbyville and held an elderly couple inside hostage for several hours, Tennessee police said. They left the home shortly after 5 p.m. Central in the couple’s Jeep. The victims were able to notify law enforcement about the encounter and the chase was on.
The pursuit wound from Bedford County along U.S. 231, into Rutherford County and onto I-24. During the chase, which lasted more than 20 miles and reached dangerously high speeds, shots were fired from the suspects’ vehicle, striking several police cruisers.
After wrecking their car, the fugitives fled into the woods, emerging into a residential area.
Rowe and DuBose couldn’t have picked a worse place to hide. Large cell phone towers overlook the wide pastures that back up to the dense woods where they emerged, shirtless and drained, following their car accident on I-24 outside of Murfreesboro.
“Husband and wife, ex-military. Husband, ex-military. Husband, ex-military,” said Jeremy Littrell, pointing to his neighbors’ homes on Pruitt Road in rural Christiana, where Rowe and DuBose were captured early Thursday evening. “I hunt. We have plenty of firearms. Everyone down this road is into hunting or ex-military. … They just picked a bad road to come up on.”
Littrell, 32, watched the escaped inmates jog in and out of the tree line, located less than a mile from the interstate, from his back deck, protected by a 12-gauge shotgun and a couple of pistols. He had been warned by a sheriff’s deputy checking vehicles near his home to stay away.
“We don’t lock our doors out here,” said Littrell, as roosters crowed in the background. “I leave my keys in the truck. If something’s missing, it’s because one of the neighbors borrowed it.”
They were eventually nabbed in Hale’s yard, just 20 miles away from Rowe’s family in Lewisburg, Tenn.
Hale said contrary to what has been reported, he didn’t pull his gun on the inmates. He did acknowledge that he and his family fared better than others who came across Dubose and Rowe.
Clinching his daughter tight as his wife stood by, Hale said: “My family means the world to me. I was ready to do what I could.”
Dubose and Rowe are accused of overpowering two Georgia Department of Corrections officers on a transport bus and shooting and killing them in front of 31 other inmates who were on the bus.
When they were captured, the fugitives still had the guns of slain Baldwin State Prison officers Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica, officers said.
Billue’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday in McIntyre, Ga.