A recently released hospital patient stole an ambulance from a hospital in Prince George's County during rush hour Friday morning and led police on a chase through two counties.
William Person, 43, led police through Charles County and Prince George's County for more than an hour, activating the ambulance's lights and riding on its rims after stop strips deflated the tires.
He was taken for a mental evaluation and charged by Prince George's County with auto theft and malicious destruction of property. He may face additional charges in Charles County.
The incident began when officers found Person, of Temple Hills, overnight, suffering from injuries and acting erratically, Prince George's County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said at a news conference.
The officers took Person to Prince George's Hospital Center, where he was treated and released just after 6 a.m. As he was being released, Person climbed into an ambulance outside the hospital and drove off.
Stawinski said authorities alerted the Charles County Sheriff's Office as soon as they realized Person was heading into that county.
A GPS system inside the ambulance let police track the stolen vehicle.
The sheriff's office put down stop strips, deflating all four of the ambulance's tires, but the suspect continued driving.
Authorities say Person drove to Naval Support Facility Indian Head, where he made a U-turn and drove on rims back into Prince George's County.
At one point, Stawinski said Person activated the ambulance's lights. Officers made several attempts to communicate with Person as he drove, but they were not able to get through to him.
"He had a thousand-yard stare. He was not responsive. He just kept on driving," Stawinski said.
Officers blocked intersections along the pursuit route, preventing other drivers from getting in the way.
Local police agencies pursued the ambulance to Allentown Road, where Person struck a Maryland State Police cruiser that was working to block him from going onto Branch Avenue.
The trooper, who was not hurt, turned his cruiser into the ambulance while other officers created a barrier with their vehicles.
The ambulance finally was brought to a stop, and Person was taken into custody at Allentown Road and Camp Springs Way in Camp Springs, Maryland, about 7:20 a.m.
Person was taken back to the hospital for a mental evaluation and treatment of minor injuries.
Any time Prince George's County ambulances are unattended, they should be locked, with the engines off, Assistant Chief Alan Doubleday said department policy says.
An investigation into how Person was allowed to take the ambulance is underway. It's too early to say if any member of the fire and EMS department could be disciplined, Doubleday said.