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Handcuffed Suspect Breaks Free, Steals Police Car In Indiana

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William Blankenship III

William Blankenship III broke free from his handcuffs and stole a police car in Kouts, Ind. He is conisdered armed and dangerous. (Credit: Kouts Police)

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UPDATED 01/11/12 5:10 p.m.

KOUTS, Ind. (CBS) — A manhunt continued Wednesday for a fugitive who escaped from custody while handcuffed and stole a police squad car full of weapons in northwest Indiana.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, William Blankenship III, 22, stole a cruiser full of weapons while the police officer who arrested him was in a convenience store, even though Blankenship was handcuffed in the back of the car.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

By 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the police car had been found in a small pond in southern LaPorte County, south of State Route 8 near LaCrosse, Ind. Blanklenship was not in the vehicle.

“The road was a 90 degree turn and it looks like he didn’t where he was at and was driving at a high rate of speed and hit the brakes and went right into the ditch,” Kouts Police Chief James Boyce said.

The car has been towed away, and investigators say all the weapons that were inside have been recovered.

“He somehow stole the police car,” said Porter County, Ind., Sheriff’s police Sgt. Larry LaFlower. “That is currently under investigation how that happened.”

It almost seems like it’s right out of a movie. Blankenship was handcuffed when police say he somehow escaped from the back of the squad car, got into the driver’s seat, and drove off.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, it all went down around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A Kouts police officer had made a traffic stop and arrested Blankenship on drug charges after spotting heroin and methamphetamine paraphernalia in his car.

While the officer was examining the car in a convenience store parking lot, Blankenship stole the police car and drove away.

Authorities say they had one brief encounter with Blankenship after he fled. He apparently radioed police for help in finding the car’s cigarette lighter and key to unlock his handcuffs.

“He was wanting a cigarette, wanting to know where the handcuff keys were so that he could get the handcuffs off of him, basically wanted to see his 2-month-old son,” Boyce said.

But about 45 minutes after the first radio contact was made, all communication between Blankenship and police stopped. Police believe that’s when he crashed into the pond.

Even though he was handcuffed, Blankenship managed to escape the vehicle while it was in the pond.

Police said Blankenship then walked to a nearby farmhouse to ask for help.

“A man was at the house looking for a pair of bolt cutters to get him out of his handcuffs and … basically said they didn’t want to get involved with anything like that,” Boyce said.

After he was denied help, Blankenship somehow made it to his hometown of Knox, Ind., and stopped by his wife’s home.

She declined to go on camera, but angrily said her husband should help himself by giving up.

Blankenship has been arrested several times in the past for drug offenses.

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