Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

S.C. prisoner's escape aided by phones, wire cutters, a drone and $47,000

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina inmate broke out of a maximum-security prison using wire cutters that were apparently flown in by drone, officials said Friday, describing a new and devilishly hard-to-stop means of escape.

Convicted kidnapper Jimmy Causey, 46, was recaptured at a Texas motel before daybreak, more than two days after bolting to freedom in a plot worthy of a Hollywood script. It was the second time in 12 years that he escaped.

This time, he used a smuggled-in cellphone to coordinate the delivery of the breakout tools, investigators said. Then, with dusk approaching on the Fourth of July, he cut through four fences and left a dummy in his bed that fooled his guards. He got an 18-hour head start.

When he was caught, he had about $47,000 in cash, an ID card and two guns, authorities said.

"We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape," South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said. He said investigators were still trying to confirm that, and he didn't elaborate on why they believe a drone was involved.

But an official aerial photo of the prison shows rings of tall fences and an expanse of more than 50 yards between the prison perimeter and the cellblocks, making it unlikely someone could have thrown or catapulted tools to him.

Kevin Tamez, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who consults on prison security as managing partner of the New Jersey-based MPM Group, said he wasn't aware of any other U.S. prison escapes aided by drones.

Tamez said that delivering something heavy such as wire or bolt cutters via drone would require a sophisticated plan and a powerful machine.

"They have to land for you to get the contraband off of them," he said. "They can't drop it like a bomb."

Tamez said there is no easy way for prisons to protect against the use of small, unmanned aircraft, other than hiring more guards to watch the fences.

Stirling said the state is spending millions to install netting at prisons to prevent people from throwing things over, but confessed that won't stop drones.

"Now they're going to fly over the nets," he said. "So what do we do next?"

A tip led Texas Rangers to a motel room in Austin where Causey was found sleeping about 4 a.m. Friday, authorities said. Texas officials released a photo of a handgun, shotgun, four cellphones and stacks of cash found with Causey about 1,200 miles from the Lieber Correctional Institution prison near Charleston.

Prison officials are investigating how his 8 p.m. disappearance Tuesday went unnoticed until 2 p.m. the next day.

"Everyone who assisted him — we intend on bringing them to justice as well," State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said.

Causey was sentenced to life behind bars 13 years ago for holding a lawyer at gunpoint. Authorities said he believed the defense attorney did not do enough to keep him out of prison in the 1990s.

In his first escape, from a different South Carolina prison in 2005, he and another inmate hid in a garbage truck that was leaving the maximum-security institution. They were arrested three days later after a woman delivering pizza to a motel called police.

Drones have been used to deliver contraband such as drugs and cellphones to prisons across the U.S., including two cases in recent years from South Carolina. In May, two men were arrested for trying to fly knives, marijuana and phones into a medium-security state prison. Another man is serving a 15-year sentence after officials found a crashed drone outside a maximum-security institution in 2014.

Authorities in Britain said two inmates there escaped from prison last year by cutting through window bars using a saw and wire cutters that were believed to have been flown in via drone.

Advanced technology and highly motivated prisoners can be a dangerous combination.

"You have nothing to do but sit on the edge of your bunk and figure out ways to get past the system," Tamez said. "You can't get complacent with them. These guys aren't stupid."

S.C. prisoner's escape aided by phones, wire cutters, a drone and $47,000 07/07/17 [Last modified: Friday, July 7, 2017 3:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]