TORONTO - The Ontario government sees no need to arm jail guards who escort prisoners outside of secure institutions despite a daring escape in which two armed and masked men helped a prisoner get away from guards at a Hamilton hospital.
Fawad Nouri, 25, was leaving Hamilton General Hospital with two jail guards on Tuesday when two armed men helped him escape by overpowering the guards and stealing their van, which was quickly ditched for another vehicle.
"At this point in time, I would not be in favour of having jail guards carry guns," Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said outside the legislature Wednesday.
"They are in very, very close proximity to prisoners (and) carrying a gun brings about a whole other set of circumstances that may have to be dealt with."
There are about 70,000 cases each year when prisoners come and go from institutions with guards, but only five escapes in the past five years, noted Bartolucci.
"There have only been five escapes - that's five too many," he said.
"We've learned from the five and we'll learn from this one, but I think correctional officers are doing a very, very good job."
Nouri was in a Hamilton detention centre after being wounded in a shootout with police last January following an alleged armed robbery at a Tim Hortons restaurant.
Hamilton police have released video surveillance images of the suspects believed to be involved in helping Nouri escape.
The first three images show two suspects at the main entrance of the Hamilton General Hospital.
The fourth image, police say, is of a "person of interest" and was taken from a surveillance camera at the detention centre on Tuesday morning prior to the escape.
Hamilton police Sgt. Terri-Lynn Collings said detectives want to speak with the man or anyone who recognizes him.
She said Hamilton police are going over numerous tips and working with other police forces to find Nouri.
Nouri is described as Middle Eastern, six-foot-one and 163 pounds. He was last seen wearing an orange jumpsuit.
Police are warning the public not to approach him or the other suspects as they are considered to be armed and dangerous.