PORTLAND, Ore. — A 50-year-old convict left unguarded to fly to Denver and report to a halfway house for eventual release instead skipped out and robbed a bank before Portland police shot him to death, authorities said Tuesday.
The man was identified Tuesday as 50-year-old Merle Mikal Hatch. His mother and law enforcement officials said he had a record of violent and drug-related crimes. He had been serving a 10-year bank robbery sentence.
A U.S. Bureau of Prisons vehicle delivered him from the medium-security facility at Sheridan in Yamhill County to the airport in Portland for a Feb. 12 flight to Denver.
He was unguarded after that and didn’t show up later in the day at the halfway house, also known as a re-entry center, said Paul Thompson, an official at the Sheridan prison.
Three days later, the Clackamas County sheriff’s office said, he held up a Wells Fargo bank office in Clackamas.
Two days after that, on Sunday night, he checked into the emergency room of Portland Adventist Medical Center and had a black handgun, Portland police said.
He threatened a hospital employee, left the building and pointed the gun at a security car in an employee parking lot before three police officers fired at him.
An autopsy Tuesday determined he died of multiple wounds.
The Portland Police Bureau hasn’t provided much detail about the officers’ confrontation with Hatch, except to say that they “began giving him commands” and then they fired.
A police statement said it expected to provide an account Wednesday, after the officers have been interviewed.
Hatch was convicted in 2005 of a bank robbery in Colorado the year before, said Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. Burke said the sentence was 125 months. Details about the robbery were not immediately available.
By law, Hatch would have been at the Denver halfway house no more than a year before release, Burke said.
Thompson said it’s typical for an inmate to go unguarded through the airport for such a trip.
“That’s their transition from incarceration to the community,” he said.
Details about how much good time Hatch had earned toward early release and his exact release date were not available Tuesday, Burke and Thompson said.
Hatch’s mother, Mary Hatch, told The Oregonian newspaper she and her husband last saw their son 15 to 20 years ago, and he appeared to have fallen on hard times. She said he hadn’t married, had children or had a job.
“He was troubled,” said Hatch, who lives in Iowa. “He was in and out of prison most of his adult life. He got into drugs early. There wasn’t much left of the person we knew as a kid growing up.”