Convicts on loose after daring escape
CHICAGO — Two bank robbers were on the run after using a knotted rope or bed sheets to escape from a federal prison window high above downtown Chicago early Tuesday, a week after one of them made a courtroom vow of retribution.
The escape occurred sometime between 5 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. when the inmates were discovered missing, Chicago Police Sgt. Mark Lazarro said. Hours later, what appeared to be a rope, knotted at six-foot intervals, could be seen dangling from a window of the Metropolitan Correctional Center approximately 20 stories above the ground.
Joseph “Jose” Banks, 37, and Kenneth Conley, 38, had been wearing prisonissue orange jumpsuits, but now might be wearing white t-shirts, gray sweat pants and white gym shoes, Lazarro said.
The FBI said the men were last seen together in the Tinley Park area, about 25 miles southwest of Chicago, and that they should be considered armed and dangerous.
SWAT teams stormed a Tinley Park home early Tuesday afternoon, but the escapees were not there, FBI Special Agent Frank Bochte said. He said there was evidence the two had been there earlier, and authorities were using dogs and helicopters to search various places in the Chicago area where the two had connections.
Banks is described as a black man, 5-feet-8, weighing 160 pounds. Conley is described as white, 6 feet tall, weighing 185 pounds.
The men apparently descended from a thin window barely half a foot wide on the flat south side of the prison into the alley below. The wall faces a parking garage and is above air conditioning or heating units.
Crowds of people gathered outside the building where the ropes still blew in the breeze, shaking their heads in disbelief that someone could have escaped from a lockup in the heart of downtown Chicago, just a block or two from key federal court and office buildings.
The owners of several small shops across the street from the wall said they didn’t see any police activity until around 8:30 a.m., when a dozen or more police cars and SWAT teams rushed into the area. Some police officers sprinted for a nearby subway entrance.
Banks, known as the Second-Hand Bandit because he wore used clothes during his heists, was convicted last week of robbing two banks and attempting to rob two more. Authorities say he stole almost $600,000 and that most of that is still missing.
After U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer convicted him, he said he would “be seeking retribution as well as damages,” the Chicago SunTimes and Chicago Tribune reported.
Conley pleaded guilty last October to robbing a Homewood Bank of nearly $4,000.