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29 November 2023

Handcuffed man takes off in police cruiser


A handcuffed drug suspect who stole a police cruiser containing loaded guns then wrecked and abandoned the car is still on the loose in northwest Indiana, authorities said Wednesday.

William Francis Blankenship stole the car Tuesday evening in Kouts, Porter County, and subsequently used the police radio to ask where to find the car's cigarette lighter - and the keys to unlock himself, police said.

"There was a conversation between him and one of our officers," Porter County Sheriff's Sgt. Larry LaFlower said. Police didn't tell Blankenship, 22, how to remove the handcuffs, LaFlower said.

Police found the town cruiser Wednesday morning "wrecked and submerged in water" in nearby LaPorte County, and Blankenship was no longer with the vehicle, he said.

LaFlower did not say if loaded weapons that had been left in the vehicle were still there when the wreck was discovered. Earlier, police had said Blankenship should be considered armed and dangerous.

The sole police officer on duty arrested Blankenship on drug charges Tuesday evening in Kouts, a small Indiana town about 50 miles southeast of Chicago. The suspect somehow managed to escape from the back of the car, climb in the front and drive it away, police said.

LaFlower didn't explain the nature of the drug allegations against Blankenship nor how he managed to escape and drive while handcuffed.

"That's still under investigation," he said.