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Louisiana murder suspect escapes after pepper-spraying deputy, stealing her vehicle

Leon Ruffin was in custody on a second-degree murder charge when he escaped while being transported from a local hospital back to the corrections center.

A Louisiana inmate in custody on a second-degree murder charge escaped Sunday after he pepper-sprayed his transporting deputy and stole her vehicle, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said.

Leon Ruffin had been transferred from the corrections center to a local hospital around 12 p.m. after having suffered a possible seizure. He was discharged around 6:30 p.m. and escorted back by a deputy.

As the deputy was leaving the hospital with Ruffin in the vehicle, he "created some type of disturbance." The deputy got out of the car and opened the door to check on Ruffin when he pepper-sprayed her, Sheriff Joe Lopinto said at a news conference.

Jefferson Parish inmate Leon Ruffin.
Leon Ruffin, who escaped from custody in Jefferson Parish, La.Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office

Ruffin escaped in the vehicle. His whereabouts are unknown. 

“I really don’t believe he has anything to lose,” Lopinto said. “He’s in for a second-degree murder for life in prison at this point in time, so I definitely consider him armed and dangerous by all means.”

The deputy had her pepper spray, Taser and weapon on her as Ruffin escaped and was able to fire three shots at him. It remains unclear whether any rounds hit Ruffin. 

Ruffin is not believed to have access to a firearm, but he is still carrying the pepper spray and driving the deputy's vehicle. Authorities do not know how Ruffin obtained the pepper spray.

Before he was treated at the hospital, Ruffin had been in the corrections center's medical facility, but Lopinto said authorities believe he was faking his injuries. Ruffin was wearing a walking boot from the hospital, which he removed when he escaped. 

The deputy was treated for the pepper spray at the hospital and is in “good spirits.” The search for Ruffin continues.