NEWS

Escape from sheriff’s van in Braintree still being probed

Robert Sears

No further information has been released on how a shackled armed robbery suspect was able to climb through an emergency exit in the roof of a sheriff’s department van.

But Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti has ordered his staff to find out how common escape attempts like this are, Peter Perroncello, his superintendent of operations said.

The exit had no alarm.

David J. O’Donnell, 24, of Quincy, was critically injured when he fell from the roof of the moving van Monday afternoon on Washington Street near Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree.

He was one of 20 prisoners being taken from Quincy District Court to the county jail in Dedham.

Several people saw the 6-foot-1, 230-pound O’Donnell fall from the van’s roof and called police. One witness said that O’Donnell, who was in handcuffs and leg shackles, landed head-first on the pavement.

The two officers in the van were unaware of what happened until they were notified while on Route 128.

Prisoners in the 24-passenger van are transported in three compartments, Perroncello said. They are not tethered to the vehicle unless they are considered dangerous.

Emergency roof exits are required by the Department of Transportation in a vehicle that size, and they must be unlocked.

The exits are not required in the smaller vans used by the Sheriff’s Department.

O’Donnell, who has a criminal record, was arrested in Quincy Sunday on an armed robbery charge. He pleaded innocent at his arraignment, and bail was set at $2,500.

He has a larceny case pending in Hingham District Court and is facing an-assault and battery charge in Cambridge.

O’Donnell, allegedly armed with a knife, stole $30 and a cell phone from another man, according to a police report filed at Quincy District Court.

The victim told police that he went with Rita T. Desmond, 44, to her 545 Washington St. apartment in Quincy at about 6 a.m. Sunday. He was confronted by O’Donnell who had a knife, the report said.

O’Donnell is Desmond’s nephew, the report said.

The victim’s wallet containing $30 and his cell phone were taken.

O’Donnell told the victim that he would kill him if he tried to flee and that he has killed before, the police report said.

The victim told police that Desmond and another woman, O’Donnell’s girlfriend, who was also at the apartment, took Lottery scratch tickets, which were not winners, from his Jeep. When the victim left, he drove to a nearby convenience store and called the police.

O’Donnell and Desmond were arrested at Desmond’s apartment on armed robbery charges.

Bail for O’Donnell, was set at $2,500. Bail for Desmond, also charged with breaking and entering in to a motor vehicle, was set at $500.

The other woman, 20, of Quincy, was not at the apartment when police arrived, but they will file charges of armed robbery and breaking and entering into a motor vehicle against her, the report said.

Robert Sears may be reached at bsears@ledger.com.