Second escape gives police cause for reassessment

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The second prisoner escape within a week has left Scott City police chief Don Cobb embarrassed and vowing his department will learn from its mistakes.

"It's odd for a police department to lose one in 20 years," Cobb said. "In five days we lost two. There's no excuse. The first one I don't know how we could have done any better. The second one, we simply screwed up."

A Jackson man, Samuel King, escaped from Scott City police late Tuesday night, and was recaptured shortly before noon Wednesday.

The first instance Cobb mentioned was George Michael Cagle II of Scott City who wrangled his handcuffed arms from behind him to the front and escaped from a Scott City police car on Friday. He was caught two days later, still handcuffed, in Jackson.

In the second incident, Scott City police had picked up King, 18, of Jackson in a stolen car around 11 p.m. Tuesday. King was wanted in Cape Girardeau County for failure to appear on a forgery charge and on probation violation. King is in the Cape Girardeau County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $5,000 cash only. Cobb expects the Scott County prosecuting attorney to follow up with charges of escape and tampering with a motor vehicle.

Wire hidden in clothing

Cobb said King was in the police department's booking room, seated, wearing leg shackles, as is standard procedure. King had apparently concealed a small wire in the waistband of his pants. It took King about 40 seconds, he said, to get to the wire, unlock the leg shackles and run out.

It's impossible to detect the wire when doing a pat-down, Cobb said. The mistake was made when the booking officer turned his back on King briefly.

Cobb said the maneuver to retrieve the wire was something King had obviously practiced.

"The criminal element has evolved," Cobb said. "As police officers we have to evolve with them. As officers we have to be smarter than the criminal element."

A manhunt began immediately for King, who had left on foot. Cobb said witnesses told him that King had hidden out in some abandoned trailers and houses.

"We were pushing him pretty much the whole time," Cobb said. "We stayed one or two steps behind him in most places."

Cobb said once he located King on the street Wednesday morning, he was able to negotiate his surrender. When King fled, he was wearing only his pants and a thin T-shirt.

"He was cold," Cobb said. "He had had no shower, nothing to eat, no change of clothes, no cigarettes. I negotiated a shower, fresh clothes, cigarettes and a Burger King meal."

Cobb said he is sorry it happened and is treating the incident as a learning experience. No one in the police department will ever turn their backs on a suspect even for an instant, he said.

"We do not have the luxury of making mistakes, and mistakes were definitely made," Cobb said. "We are a very professional police department and we have done some good work. The only thing we can do is grow from it.

"It will not happen again."

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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