SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — The state prisons department has suspended two employees and the Hampden district attorney is investigating whether they made death threats to a hospitalized murder suspect.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said the agency began investigating after learning that “a number of calls” were made to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield allegedly threatening Tamik Kirkland, who was recovering from gunshot wounds sustained in a shootout with police last month.

“Two staff members were suspended and the DOC referred the matter to the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution,” DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin said Wednesday. “The entire matter remains under investigation.”

Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni said investigators are looking into whether some of the calls were made by DOC employees who believed that by threatening Kirkland’s life, it would ensure them overtime pay because the DOC would have to guard him 24 hours a day in the hospital. Mastroianni said that while he is not ruling that possibility out, it is “not jumping to the forefront” as a motive for the calls at this point.

“Right now our goal is to find out the basic stuff — whose phone it was, where the calls came from, how many, who was placing them. After we get that information, we sort out the why,” Mastroianni said.

Authorities allege Kirkland escaped from a minimum-security prison in Shirley, then killed a customer and injured a barber at a Springfield barbershop as revenge for the shooting of his mother.

During a shootout, Kirkland hit two police officers in their bulletproof vests. Police shot Kirkland at least five times. He has not been charged yet in the barbershop shooting because his medical condition remains serious.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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