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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2001

Rape suspect caught after escape

A Toledo man accused in a Promenade Park rape early Sunday jumped out a second-story window at police headquarters but was recaptured a short time later after he hid in the loading dock area at The Blade.

James L. Thomas, 20, of 747 Euclid Ave., was charged with rape and escape and is to be arraigned today in Toledo Municipal Court, authorities said.

Mr. Thomas was booked into the Lucas County jail yesterday morning after being treated at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center for injuries he suffered in his jump from an interview room at the police station. Chief Michael Navarre said steps will be taken to prevent similar escapes, and an internal investigation will determine whether proper procedures were followed.

The chief said Mr. Thomas was left unattended in the interview room about 7 a.m. while awaiting detectives who would question him, though he was being watched on closed-circuit television by an officer who had taken him to the station. Mr. Thomas locked the room's door from the inside, then removed a screen and cranked open a window. By the time officers unlocked the door, Chief Navarre said, Mr. Thomas had jumped.

An officer found Mr. Thomas at The Blade, 541 North Superior St., where employees had pulled him down from a conveyor belt, the report said. Police listed Mr. Thomas's injuries from his jump as a possible broken left elbow and left wrist, possible head injury, and scrapes and bruises on the knees.

Police had taken Mr. Thomas into custody for questioning about the sexual assault of a 19-year-old central city woman. The victim, who was treated at St. Charles Mercy Hospital, told police that a man who had passed her and spoken to her while she was crossing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge alone then pursued and tackled her in the park near the Owens-Illinois building.

People sitting on a nearby bench and on a boat heard the woman's screams and went to her aid, prompting the suspect to flee. Police officers saw him running near a loading dock and trying to climb a fence, and found him hiding in some brush.

Chief Navarre said the interview room previously was an office, and its window fixtures were not been changed because it was not intended for use as a holding cell. The police chief said the window crank has been removed, the inside lock has been changed to an outside lock, and prisoners no longer will be left unattended in the room.

The police department is constructing more secure interview rooms to prevent similar escapes, he added. Chief Navarre said he could not recall anyone ever jumping from a window before, but a prisoner once escaped by climbing above a suspended ceiling and crawling out of an interview room that way.



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