by Ivan Foley
Law enforcement officials in Platte County were dealt a full plate on Friday, thanks to a pair of escapees from the Lansing, Kan. Correctional Facility.
The day included several shots being fired at officers in pursuit, attempted kidnapping of the Edgerton mayor as he stood on the street in his town watching the pursuit, and about a six-hour standoff at a residence along the Platte-Clinton County line. It wrapped up with the escapees surrendering without further incident.
The suspects are both accused of committing a dozen felonies throughout the day. Their new place of residence is the Platte County Jail, where they’re each being held on $5 million cash-only bond.
The day--which was chronicled as it was happening at Twitter.com/ivanfoley – began with reports of three inmates escaping early Friday from the minimum security unit at the Lansing facility. Two of them, later identified as Allen M. Hurst, 31, and Scott A. Gilbert, 49, allegedly stole a pickup, eventually made their way into Platte County inside the stolen GMC.
At about 10 a.m., a report was dispatched that a stolen black GMC pickup had been pinpointed via GPS by Leavenworth Police Department to be near the intersection of Hwy. 92 and Running Horse Rd. in Platte City.
The stolen truck was spotted by Platte City Police Department Sgt. James Tharp. Tharp saw the truck leaving the parking lot at McDonald’s. He activiated his lights and siren. The driver refused to stop and headed east on Hwy. 92, then onto northbound Interstate 29. Tharp was joined in pursuit by Platte City Police Officer Michael Burgoyne and Deputies Michael Macy, Colin Smith and Curtis Mears of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.
During the pursuit, the passenger in the fleeing pickup used a shotgun to fire at the law enforcement officers. Shots struck the vehicle driven by Tharp, as well as the county cars driven by Macey, Mears, and Smith.
“I watched the video. I was pretty impressed with the whole scenario,” Lt. Al DeValkenaere of the Platte City Police Department told The Landmark this week. “Our officers and every officer involved acted with professionalism and a level of restraint that was amazing.”
DeValkenaere said Tharp reported hearing the buckshot hit the car.
“But I don’t think we had any damage to the car,” he said. “I think they shot at him at least twice.”
The pursuit continued on Rt. E, then northbound on Rt. B, circled around the city of Edgerton, then continued eastbound on Hwy. Z. Vehicle speeds during the pursuit at times exceeded 90 miles per hour, authorities said, and the passenger was seen reloading the weapon within the vehicle.
At one point, officers radioed they felt the suspects were luring officers into a trap by shooting at the officers as their vehicles came over a hill. The suspect’s truck had slowed on the blind side of a hill, allowing the passenger to take closer and more accurate shots at officers.
Meanwhile, James Snook, mayor of Edgerton, and the town’s city clerk had stepped out of City Hall as the pursuit had circled through town more than once.
“Sure, you want to see the excitement when it goes through town three different times,” Snook told The Landmark on Friday.
He said on that third trip through town, the suspect’s truck came to a screeching halt. The passenger opened the pickup door and pointed the shotgun at Snook, the mayor said.
“He said ‘Come here’ or ‘Get over here,’” Snook recalled. “He was exiting the vehicle to try to get us in it. I went running down to take cover behind my pickup. The city clerk went back inside City Hall,” Snook said.
At about 10:30 a.m., the stolen truck came to a stop at a residence in the 8700 block of SW Hwy Z just across the Platte County line in Clinton County. The two suspects fled inside the house, breaking through a glass door to gain entry.
Fortunately, there was no one home at the time. Officers from the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol surrounded the home. SWAT teams positioned themselves, including snipers from the sheriff’s department and the highway patrol.
Eventually verbal contact was made via bullhorn with the suspects, with a negotiator from the highway patrol speaking with the suspects at various times. Shortly before 5 p.m. the suspects agreed to walk out of the home through the back door and were arrested peacefully, officers said.
The third Lansing escapee, identified as Randy Ridens, 57, was captured later Friday without incident in Topeka, Kan. Local authorities had no details on how the three escaped. The three had been imprisoned due to convictions on burglary charges.
Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen was pleased with the tactical response.
“Because of the heroic actions of many fine law enforcement officers, these two prison escapees were taken into custody without anyone being seriously injured or killed. These officers refused to yield in the face of danger, even after the defendants fired multiple gunshots at them,” Owen said.
At a news conference Saturday morning to detail the local charges against the escapees, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said: “Society is obligated to do everything it can to defend law enforcement offices who take an oath to protect the rest of us. We will use every resource of the state of Missouri to prove the allegations against these two defendants.”
The felony charges against the two in Platte County include multiple counts of assault of a law enforcement officer, multiple counts of armed criminal action, tampering, resisting a lawful stop, and attempted kidnapping.