CLEVELAND (REUTERS) - A teenager serving a life sentence for shooting three students to death at a Cleveland-area high school in 2012 escaped on Thursday with another inmate from a north-western Ohio prison, prompting a manhunt for the pair, police said.
T.J. Lane, 19, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year for the attack at Chardon High School near Cleveland, escaped with Clifford Opperud, 45, from the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio, the local police department said in a Facebook message.
"I was briefed that there were three escapees. Unknown method. Two currently at large," Lima Police Sergeant Andrew Green said.
Lane and Opperud, who is serving a sentence for aggravated robbery, escaped at about 7.40pm and were said to be wearing blue prison uniforms, police said.
The circumstances of their escape from the facility with more than 1,600 inmates were not immediately known.
Lane's former attorney Ian Friedman warned that Lane could be dangerous and was one of the few maximum security prisoners at the facility. He had recently lost an appeal.
"He was on trial for horrendous nightmare crimes and he is facing life and you have to wonder what he feels he needs to do to stay out of prison," Friedman said.
Police warned residents not to let strangers into their homes or to pick up hitchhikers. Prison officials and police backed by a helicopter using infrared detection equipment had launched an "extensive manhunt"in the area.
Lane was arrested shortly after the school attack and confessed to firing 10 rounds from a .22-caliber pistol at students in the school cafeteria, killing three. Another student was left paralyzed from the waist down.
The February 2012 rampage was one of several mass shootings in the United States that year, including the massacre of 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
Chardon, a small town near Cleveland, is about 322 kilometers east of the prison. Chardon Local School District schools will be closed on Friday but will still provide counseling services, Superintendent Michael Hanlon said in a statement.
"Chardon remains a strong and resilient community that has rallied around each other before and I am confident that we will continue to do so," Hanlon said.
Lane wore a T-shirt with "killer" scrawled on it and gave a profane statement in court when he was sentenced to three life terms for the aggravated murders and a total of 37 years for the wounding of other students, with sentences ordered to be served consecutively.