Hunt continues for escaped bank robbers
Dec 21, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Video surveillance cameras captured two fugitive bank robbers descending the side of a federal high-rise jail and hopping a fence to freedom, a high-ranking employee at the facility said Thursday.
As the manhunt for the elusive convicts continued for a third day, the employee, who had been briefed on the investigation, said federal investigators are probing whether the control center guard -- in charge of watching video monitors for suspicious activity -- had been called away on other duties while the prisoners executed the daring escape.
"The control center person is frequently pulled to back up on bed checks," said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous. "If that happened, there may have been nobody up there to watch the monitors ... could have been a half-hour, maybe more."
Cameras mounted to the side of the 28-story Metropolitan Correctional Center in the South Loop captured Joseph "Jose" Banks and Kenneth Conley sliding down the building shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday on a rope constructed from knotted bedsheets, the employee said. The men left view briefly, but it was believed they landed on the roof of a garage below. Moments later, footage from a different camera showed them hopping a black fence marking the perimeter of the property, according to the employee.
The FBI said a surveillance camera a few blocks from the jail showed the men, who wore light-colored clothing, hailing a taxi at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue. They also appeared to be wearing backpacks, according to the FBI.
The employee said it was believed the men were dressed in the recreational clothes inmates wear while working out in the facility's rooftop gym -- typically gray sweatpants, a white T-shirt and light-colored gym shoes.
There were also questions being raised about the perimeter security at the MCC, the employee said. He said the facility used to have a round-the-clock vehicle patrol on the boundary streets around the high-rise, but since 2005 budget cuts, security has been reduced to one guard who walks the perimeter on a shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. It's unclear where that guard was at the time of the escape.
The FBI would not confirm the details Thursday. A U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman said the investigation was ongoing and declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, there has been little visible evidence of the ongoing manhunt since several high-profile raids Tuesday in the southwest suburbs of Tinley Park and New Lenox, where Conley's family and associates lived. A $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the two fugitives was announced by the FBI this week.
The cellmates, both convicted bank robbers awaiting sentencing, were last accounted for at 10 p.m. Monday during a routine bed check, authorities said. About 7 a.m. Tuesday, jail employees arriving for work saw the ropes dangling from a hole in an exterior wall near the 15th floor.
The two had put clothing and sheets under blankets in both their beds to throw off guards making nighttime checks, authorities said.
___ (c)2012 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at
www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To SIP Phones Homepage's Homepage ]