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Escape try goes from bad to worse for suspect

Sep 18, 2013 - By Eric Blom Staff Writer

Already handcuffed and in the back of a running squad car, a Lander man worsened his situation by climbing into the front of the Riverton Police Department vehicle.

County prosecutors saw the move as an attempted escape and added a felony to the man's original charges of firing a semi-automatic pistol recklessly.

Police released details of the Aug. 29 incident this month.

Arthur Rueben Cantrell Jr., 21, of Riverton, faces one felony charge of attempted escape from official detention and two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangering. No one was injured in the incidents.

Shots fired

On Aug. 29, Riverton police responded to reported gunfire on the east side of Federal Boulevard between Adams and Monroe avenues, said Capt. Eric Murphy.

Murphy said a man named Nathan Kirk was walking north on a path when he came upon Cantrell and another man walking south.

Kirk said he saw Cantrell holding a pistol and then saw him shoot it, Murphy said.

Police soon surrounded the area but did not find Cantrell. Then they received a call of another gunshot fired near 321 E. Madison Ave. in Riverton.

In an affidavit, officer Mariah Wilson said police secured Cantrell once they arrived at the East Madison Avenue location and found he was in possession of a Cobra .380 semi-automatic pistol.

Murphy said Cantrell matched the description Kirk gave of the shooter he saw.

Cantrell told police he stole the gun from a man in City Park earlier that day, Wilson said. The Riverton man also said he shot the gun.

"I had racked the slide, and a bullet came out, and then I shot the gun," Cantrell said, according to the affidavit.

The first reckless endangering charges stated he placed Kirk in danger of death or serious bodily injury by firing the pistol and the second stated he did the same to residents near 321 E. Madison Ave.

After the admission, officer Anthony Armstrong arrested Cantrell, handcuffed his hands behind his back and placed him in the back of the officer's squad car as police continued to interview people in the area.

'Escape'

As they were working, Sgt. Scott Komrs heard a honk from the squad car and then saw its lights flashing, Murphy said.

Komrs yelled, "Your car!" and Komrs and Armstrong ran toward the vehicle, according to the affidavit.

The defendant had crawled to the front seat of the running squad car and had moved his handcuffed hands to the front of his body, Wilson said.

A loaded police rifle also was in the front part of the cabin, but it was in a locking device, and Cantrell could not have used it, Murphy said. The locks either use keys or hidden switches to release them.

Cantrell tried to return to the back seat, but Armstrong had unlocked the front passenger door and grabbed him.

Cantrell's pants and underwear became caught on the loaded rifle, though, and Komrs had to cut through the clothing so they could pull him from the car.

Cantrell was intoxicated at the time of his arrest, Murphy said.

Murphy said patrol cars usually have a closed partition to separate the front and back areas of the vehicle. However, the partition in Armstrong and Wilson's vehicle was open, because the two had switched cars immediately before responding to the gunfire call and did not check the gate before departing.

Cantrell's attempted escape charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $3,000 fine. His two misdemeanor counts for firing a pistol each has a maximum penalty of one year in prison. He faces arraignment in district court.

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