“You wouldn’t think that anyone would come crashing through the gates of a prison without a sinister reason.” Burl cain, Angola warden
ST. FRANCISVILLE — The Houma man who crashed a black SUV through the front gate at Louisiana State Pentientiary on Sunday is being held on a $225,000 bail and must undergo a judge-ordered mental health examination.
Floyd Lee Tillman, 26, and his children, ages 8 months and 2 years, were not injured in the Sunday afternoon incident, although Angola officers shot out the back window of their car and it later crashed head-on into a prison vehicle, injuring a prison investigator.
Tillman appeared before 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. to be formally advised of the charges against him and to have his bail set. Tillman was booked Sunday with felonies of cruelty to juveniles and simple criminal damage to property valued at more than $500, and misdemeanors of remaining on land after being forbidden and simple trespassing. Later Monday, deputies added a count of attempted second-degree murder against Tillman because of the collision with the investigator’s car.
West Feliciana Parish Sheriff J. Austin Daniel said that when the judge asked whether Tillman wanted to hire a lawyer or have one appointed to represent him, Tillman replied, “No.”
Angola Warden Burl Cain said Tillman first came to the gate and asked to tour the prison. Told that no tours were being offered, Tillman left but came back again to ask for directions to Miami.
Cain said security officers detained Tillman and checked a national police database to see if he was wanted by authorities in any other jurisdiction. He had no outstanding arrest warrants, and security officers told him to leave and gave him directions to Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge.
“Instead of turning around, he cranked it up and crashed through the gate,” the warden said.
Cain said he knows of no nationally recognized protocols for how to respond to a person illegally entering a prison with children in the vehicle, but he said public safety is the utmost concern when Angola officers respond to any crisis on the 18,000-acre prison farm.
“You wouldn’t think that anyone would come crashing through the gates of a prison without a sinister reason,” he said.
Cain said officers did not want Tillman’s vehicle to get close enough to one of the prison housing areas to throw guns over the fence, blow a hole in security fences with a bomb or use the children as hostages for a prison break.
“We would have had a disaster, so we wanted to stop the vehicle,” Cain said, adding that the bullet that took out the back window of Tillman’s SUV was aimed relatively high.
Another shot missed the vehicle and hit the tailgate of a pickup truck driven by a minister who was asking to deliver religious literature to the prison.
After leaving the front gate area, Tillman turned left onto a road built atop a Mississippi River levee. The road forks at one point, with the right fork leading to Angola’s Camp C.
Cain said at least three armed officers gave chase, and Camp C officers blocked Tillman’s access to the satellite prison with a bus, Cain said.
Tillman, however, took the left fork and went as far as a road leading to the Angola ferry landing. There, he turned around and began retracing his path, Cain said.
Prison investigator Mike Vaughn stopped his vehicle on the road as Tillman approached, leaving the fleeing driver room to drive around him, Cain said.
Tillman, going about 40 miles per hour, instead hit the front of Vaughn’s vehicle, spinning it around and about 20 feet down the levee, the warden said.
Tillman jumped out of his disabled vehicle and fled into a wooded area, where officers tracked him down and held him until sheriff’s deputies arrived to take him into custody.
On Sunday, deputies and prison officials believed Tillman may have kidnapped his two children in Terrebonne Parish, but Daniel said Monday that no charges are pending against him in Terrebonne.
The children were released to the custody of their mother Sunday night, the sheriff said.
Daniel said the officers who fired at the car followed the proper protocol although the children were inside it.
Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot said Sunday afternoon, few, if any, inmate trusties are assigned to work details around the front gate. Inmates are no longer housed in a compound connected to the prison administration building near the gate.
Investigators were unable to immediately determine if Tillman had a connection to the prison, such as a relative incarcerated there, Fontenot said.
“This makes absolutely no sense at all,” she said.