Ind. squad car found after handcuffed man escapes

The prisoner that is driving the police car is William Francis Blankenship III, 22 years old from Knox, Ind., according to authorities. Blankenship is 5'10,"175 lbs with black hair and brown eyes. He has a goatee with some other facial hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a white/gray hoodie sweatshirt. Blankenship was handcuffed when he fled in the car, police say.

January 11, 2012 2:16:57 PM PST
Police in northwest Indiana have recovered a squad car they say a handcuffed suspect stole during a traffic stop Monday.

It happened in the town of Kouts, in Porter County, Ind.

The Porter County Sheriff's squad car was found early Wednesday morning, along with guns that were inside, but the suspect remains on the loose.

"Our main concern was one, locating the vehicle and two, accounting for the weapons that were inside the vehicle when it was taken and that has been done," said Capt. George Gonzalez, Porter County Sheriff's Department.

Police recovered the squad car at about 6:30 a.m. in southern LaPorte County in a drainage ditch, Porter County officers said at a press conference. That is about 25 miles away from Kouts, where the squad car was initially stolen.

"A guy that used to work for the department, he found the vehicle sitting, he happened to go around the curve, saw the skid marks and looked into the ditch and saw about 8 inches of the trunk sticking out of the water," said Kouts Police Chief James Boyce.

Police said they processed the vehicle on the scene and they were able to recover all of the firearms that were inside. They towed the squad car back to Kouts, but they are still looking for William Blankenship III, the 22-year-old man who allegedly stole the squad car Monday after being arrested at a Family Express gas station in Kouts.

Blankenship was stopped for a routine traffic violation, according to police. But, upon discovering drug parafenalia in his vehicle, Blankenship was placed in handcuffs in the back of a squad car.

An officer then went to take inventory of Blankenship's vehicle. That is when Blankenship took control of the squad car and fled. Police say the arresting officer left the keys in the ignition.

"Our vehicles are not equipped with cages, so more than likely he went from the back seat into the front and took off that way with it," said Chief Boyce.

Blankenship took off and allegedly used the squad car's radio to contact a Porter County officer. He asked for handcuff keys and the cigarette lighter's location.

"The county officer was talking to him and then we wouldn't hear from him for a little bit. And that went on for a while. He said he had a full tank of gas and was going to ride it out and wasn't going back to jail and he had a two month old son and had too much to lose to go back to jail," said Boyce.

Police say that they don't believe that Blankenship intentionally ditched the vehicle. They believe that he lost control and went into the drainage ditch.

Blankenship was last seen in his hometown of Knox, Ind., shortly after the robbery, but police have not been able to find him.

Police don't believe Blankenship remains in handcuffs, but say he probably is not armed. They still characterize him as desperate and are asking anybody with information that could lead to his arrest to call the Porter County Sheriff's Department.