Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The Associated Press
CHICAGO — A manhunt for two bank robbers who used a makeshift rope to pull off a daring escape from a high-rise Chicago lockup pushed into a second day Wednesday, with authorities asking the public for help.
Police tape surrounds the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Tuesday in Chicago.
Undated photos provided by the FBI of Kenneth Conley, left, and Jose Banks, the two inmates who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago on Tuesday.
The former cellmates apparently broke a cell window, pulled out the bars then descended almost 20 stories to escape the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center early Tuesday.
Joseph "Jose" Banks, 37, and Kenneth Conley, 38, were unaccounted for during a 5 a.m. headcount, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. An FBI affidavit says the men were in their assigned areas for a head count around 10 p.m. Monday and that jail employees noticed the makeshift rope around 7 a.m., and nearby business owners said helicopters and canine units did not swarm the area until almost 8:30 a.m.
Inside the cell Tuesday morning, investigators found a broken window and bars inside a mattress, according to an FBI affidavit. Stuffed under blankets on two beds were clothing and sheets, shaped to resemble a body, the affidavit said.
Banks and Conley were the first inmates to escape from the federal facility in nearly two decades.
The FBI reissued a plea to the public to be on the lookout for the pair, whom they believe are traveling together, and warned that they should be considered armed and dangerous.
Hours after the escape, the rope of bed sheets could be seen dangling down the side of the Metropolitan Correctional Center. At least 200 feet long and knotted about every 6 feet, the rope was hanging from a window that was 6 feet tall but only about 6 inches wide.
It appeared to illustrate a meticulously planned escape from the 27-story facility just a week after Banks made a courtroom vow of retribution. The men, who have yet to be sentenced, are facing hefty prison terms
SWAT teams stormed at least one home in Tinley Park, a suburb south of the city. Although neither man was found, evidence suggested that both had been at the home just hours earlier, according to the FBI.
Some schools went on lockdown after being inundated with calls from nervous parents. Mike Byrne, a superintendent in Tinley Park, said "our parents are so emotionally charged right now" because of the school shootings in Connecticut.
The facility is one of the only skyscraper lockups in the world, and experts say its triangular shape was meant to make it easier to guard, theoretically reducing blind spots for guards. The only other escape from the nearly 40-year-old facility occurred in the mid-1980s, Cantor said.
Banks and Conley both were wearing orange jumpsuits, but police believe they may have quickly changed into white T-shirts, gray sweatpants and white gym shoes. The FBI believes both men were in Tinley Park, a heavily wooded area about 25 miles south of Chicago. Authorities were scouring a local forest preserve in the afternoon.
Banks, known as the Second-Hand Bandit because he wore used clothes during his heists, was convicted last week of robbing two banks and attempting to rob two others. Authorities say he stole almost $600,000, and that most of that still is missing.
During trial, he had to be restrained because he threatened to walk out of the courtroom. He acted as his own attorney and verbally sparred with the prosecutor, at times arguing that U.S. law didn't apply to him because he was a sovereign citizen of a group that was above state and federal law.
After he was convicted by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, he said he would "be seeking retribution as well as damages," the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reported.
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A harness and the end of a rope dangles from a window on the back side of the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Tuesday in Chicago.