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Escapee captured in South Congaree

South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – The man who escaped from a South Congaree police car Thursday afternoon has been captured. He was found in a mobile home rented by a friend in a mobile home park within a few hundred yards of where he escaped.

According to South Congaree Police Chief Josh Shumpert, Joshua Allen Irwin, age 28, was pulled over after an officer became suspicious of the car Irwin was driving. When the officer found he had outstanding warrants in Tennessee, Irwin was arrested and placed in the rear of a patrol car. At that point, Jessica Lindsay Ruff, age 24, jumped out of the car that had been stopped, opened the door of the patrol car releasing Irwin, and then tried to flee on foot herself. She was quickly caught and placed under arrest. A third individual in the car was also arrested on outstanding warrants from Richland County and the town of Irmo.

At the time Irwin fled, he had his hands cuffed behind his back. He apparently ran to the home of a friend in the mobile home park behind Advanced Auto Parts where he hid out overnight. That friend was also arrested on Friday morning and charged with assisting Irwin and obstructing his apprehension.

Lexington County and other police departments responded quickly Thursday afternoon and assisted in setting up a perimeter and tracking the escaped man with their K-9 teams. They persisted overnight, located the home where Irwin was hiding, and made the arrest Friday morning. Apparently, he still had the handcuffs on, and the fire service responded to assist the police officers in cutting those off.

It is important to note that even if the dogs identify the home where a suspect is hiding, law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant to enter the home if the owner or occupant refuses to let them search inside. This requires that the officer appear before a judge, provide sufficient probable cause to convince the judge they should enter the home, and then obtain and return to the scene with the warrant. Even then, they most often use special teams or task forces to do the actual entrance because of the danger that someone in the home may be armed and waiting to attack the officer.

Irwin was transported to the Lexington County Detention Center Friday where he will face a number of charges from the incident yesterday as well as the charge of escape.

This case highlights the dangers these officers face every day. In this instance, the officer was trying to deal with three suspects, all with prior records and warrants, by himself. If one or more chooses to run, it often forces the officer to decide if and who he will chase, and can cause him to turn his back on other suspects that may not have been searched at that point.

Chief Shumpert said Friday that he was grateful for the assistance of the other agencies that came to his department’s aid Thursday.

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