CHICAGO (AP) — A massive manhunt is under way after two bank robbers pulled off a daring escape from downtown Chicago’s high-rise jail by apparently squeezing through a narrow window and scaling down about 20 stories using a knotted rope or bed sheets.
Police helicopters and canine units swarmed the area, but not until more than three hours after Joseph “Jose” Banks and Kenneth Conley went unaccounted for during a 5 a.m. headcount. It’s unclear whether they were still inside the 27-story facility at that time, U.S. Marshal’s Service spokeswoman Belkis Cantor said.
Both men are facing hefty prison sentences, and the FBI said they should be considered armed and dangerous.
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.
Hours after the escape, a rope could be seen dangling down the side of the Metropolitan Correctional Center high above downtown Chicago. 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 6 inches in diameter.
It appeared to illustrate a meticulously planned escape — which came a week after Banks made a courtroom vow of retribution.
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, when a convicted murderer slid down an electrical cord but was eventually recaptured, Cantor said.
Exactly when Banks, 37, and Conley, 38, escaped remains unclear. Shop owners across the street from the wall the men scaled said police suddenly flooded into the area around 8:30 a.m., hours after they missed a headcount. Police initially said the men escaped sometime between 5 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.
Both men were wearing orange jumpsuits, but police believe they may have quickly changed into white T-shirts, gray sweat pants 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.