Where is he? I left him in my cruiser!

January 1, 2013 

Columbia police are looking for an apparent under-age, New Year’s Day drinker who escaped in handcuffs from the back seat of an officer’s car.

The suspect could be facing a much stiffer charge than underage drinking. Escaping from police custody and malicious injury to property is a felony, interim Columbia police chief Ruben Santiago said Tuesday.

About 2:15 a.m., police stopped a young man near the Thirsty Parrot in the 700 block of Harden Street in Five Points, according to the police report. He smelled of alcohol and his speech was slurred, the officer reported.

The young man would not provide his name, carried no identification and swung his hands when the officer tried to handcuff him, the report shows. Each time the man was asked his age, he gave different ages: 21, 18, 20.

He was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and placed in the back seat of the patrol car, Santiago said. The officer left the man in a locked cruiser with the windows up to he could help another officer across the street who was trying to break up a fight between two other men, the report shows.

When the first officer returned to his cruiser, a rear window was lowered half way -- but not broken -- and a door had been unlocked, Santiago said. The suspect was gone.

The young man, still in handcuffs but with his hands in front of him, was last seen at a BP gas station at Rosewood Drive and South Holley Street.

Police are checking to see if the station had video surveillance and whether it captured images of the man, described as being white, 5-feet, 8-inches tall and 190 pounds, and wearing a black hoodie, a white T-shirt, khaki pants and a red-and-black hat. The video might be released publicly if it would help identify the man, Santiago said.

If convicted, escape is punishable by up to two years in prison and malicious injury is a felony punishable by a up to five years, according to the state Code of Laws.

Clif LeBlanc

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