Armed robbery suspect escapes in handcuffs

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January 21, 2007

GRANITEVILLE, S.C.---Handcuffs are supposed to secure prisoners, but a Graniteville man is on the run after escaping from police custody.

18-year-old Jack Cooper was arrested just before 6 o'clock this morning for an armed robbery last night...but now, he's on the run.

One minute Cooper was cuffed in the back of the patrol car, and the next he was on the run. A five-hour manhunt followed, and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office is still trying to figure out how it happened and, more importantly, where he is.

"I've talked with him twice and all he'd say is, 'Momma, I've done something really, really bad,' but he wouldn't tell me what," Cooper's mother Linda told News 12.

Authorities say Jack Cooper robbed a Graniteville Mexican store at gunpoint Saturday night.

Sergio Sorcia was working when a man wearing a mask and dressed in all black burst through the door.

"He had pistol and say, 'Give me all your money,'" Sorcia told News 12.

Sorcia gave the man $1600, and he left.

"He ran out of the store and, we're told, into some nearby woods," said Lt. Michael Frank.

Hours later, Cooper was arrested at his home. But within minutes Cooper was on the run, after escaping in handcuffs from a patrol car.

It all happened off of Trolley Line Road near Joshua Chavis' home.

"I looked out the window and there were cops everywhere," Chavis said.

Authorities say while riding in the back of the car, Cooper managed to wiggle his handcuffs in front of him. That's when the deputy pulled the car over and Cooper went through the Plexiglas divider and out the passenger door.

"It apparently happened very quickly and this individual took off running," Lt. Frank said.

A massive search began, and close to 40 officers spent more than five hours looking in nearby woods.

Cooper's mother Linda also tried to help find her son, who she says is mentally disabled.

"If anybody out there sees my son, please don't hurt him, because he wouldn't hurt you. He's not dangerous," Linda said. "Jack, please don't hurt yourself. Please don’t. Just come home."

After a full day and night of searching, Cooper is nowhere to be found...but authorities are confident he will be back in custody.

"We certainly will catch him. It's just a matter of time," Lt. Frank said.

Lt. Frank says the sheriff and the command staff will review the situation and try to figure out how Cooper escaped, then determine if proper procedure was in fact followed.

Right now Cooper is charged with armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. He will not be charged with escape because he was en route to jail. Under the law, in order to be charged with escape, a suspect must be in the detention center or in custody by a detention center officer.

Jack Cooper is described as an 18-year-old white male with brown hair and brown eyes. He's 6' 1" and 165 pounds. He was last seen in handcuffs, wearing orange pants and no shirt.