WICHITA — A Sedgwick County Jail inmate already sentenced to life in prison in Texas and awaiting trial in Wichita set an inmate transport van on fire shortly before 7 a.m. today, then tried to escape after being removed from the burning vehicle, authorities said.
Eli Edwards, 32, was one of six inmates being transferred out of the jail when the two transporting deputies noticed a fire in the back of the van at about 6:40 a.m., said Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Captain Annette Haga.
The deputies pulled the van over at 13th and McLean and removed the shackled inmates from the van. As one of the deputies kept an eye on the inmates, Haga said, the other attempted to put the fire out.
But the fire spread out of control. Edwards then attempted to escape and scuffled with the other deputy before he was Tased and brought under control, Haga said.
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“This was a prime example of why we need Tasers,” Haga said.
The deputy who wrestled with Edwards was injured and is still being evaluated at a local hospital, Haga said late this morning.
The van sustained an estimated $25,000 damage, authorities said. The intersection of 13th and McLean was closed for more than an hour as a result of the fire, clean-up and investigation, Haga said.
Investigators are trying to figure out how the fire started.
“We believe that he started the fire,” Haga said of Edwards. “We’re trying to determine what was used...where did he get it and how did he hide it?”
The two deputies followed procedure in inspecting the inmates before they were loaded into the van, Haga said.
Edwards was booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated arson and attempted aggravated escape.
He was already facing charges of domestic battery, criminal damage to property, aggravated failure to appear, criminal threat, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and criminal possession of a firearm.
He has already been sentenced to life in prison in Texas for convictions on three coutns of aggravated robbery and three counts of aggravated kidnapping, officials said.