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Twin of trooper killed in battle with prison escapees speaks out

Col. Mike Grimes is the twin brother of Lt. Pat Grimes, one of three state troopers killed during a shoot-out with prison escapees Claude Dennis and Michael Lancaster in 1978. Mike Grimes talks about the shooting and how the ambush changed the way the agency conducts manhunts.
BY TIFFANY GIBSON Staff Writer Published: December 11, 2011

Former Oklahoma Highway Patrol Col. Mike Grimes has been on many prison escapee manhunts over the years, but he still has trouble reliving one in particular — the 1978 pursuit that ended in the death of his twin brother, Lt. Pat Grimes.

Pat Grimes, 36, of Moore, was one of three troopers killed on May 26, 1978, during a gunbattle in Caddo with two escapees from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Another trooper also was wounded.

Also killed were troopers Houston Frank "Pappy" Summers, 62, of Enid, and Billy G. Young, 50, of Woodward.

Mike Grimes said the gunbattle forever changed the way the OHP conducts manhunts. He said all troopers now are equipped with protective vests and revised manhunt procedures.

"Any time you have an escape, it endangers people's lives," he said.

Prison changes

Warden Randall G. Workman has served at the state penitentiary for three years. In earlier decades, he said, movement inside the prison wasn't as restricted as it is now.

Over the years, new measures were put into place to limit movement and privileges. Warden's assistant Terry Crenshaw said inmates now are allowed only to shower and go out into the yard with their cellmates.

Releasing too many inmates at once could result in a prison disturbance similar to the 1973 McAlester prison riot that destroyed several buildings and caused at least $20 million in damage.

The penitentiary currently houses about 959 inmates. Crenshaw said the state has 68 men and one woman on death row that will be executed at the prison.

Escapees on the run

The deadly pursuit began when Claude Eugene Dennis, 35, and Michael Lancaster, 25, escaped through a tunnel at the penitentiary April 23, 1978, and went on a rampage, murdering at least seven people between Oklahoma and Alabama.

Mike Grimes said Dennis was serving time for three murders and Lancaster was convicted of armed robbery.

"I think that's particularly significant in that fact that (Dennis) was a known murderer though he was still allowed full access to the prison," Mike Grimes said.

Once they were free, the two took the wife of a prison guard who lived at the facility and stole her vehicle and firearms.

Reign of terror

"That started their reign of terror across the state of Oklahoma and across other southeastern states," Grimes said. "Ultimately, their reign of terror took eight lives and possibly one or two more — we never could determine for sure.

Oklahoma DOC - Searching for Prison Escapees

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