A prison inmate who escaped from a moving van near Lockport while in transit from a court appearance was captured six hours later south of Joliet after police dogs caught his scent in a yard storing portable toilets and a helicopter crew using infrared technology located him in one of the toilets, authorities said.
Cesar Sanchez, 37, who state records show is serving a 7-year sentence for burglary, escaped about 2:15 p.m. near 159th Street and Farrell Road, a commercial strip not far from Lockport Township High School’s East Campus.
Sanchez was believed to have gotten onto the back of a delivery truck after his escape, said Paul Kaupas, the Will County Sheriff. The truck was tracked to a business in Rockdale, southwest of Joliet, and video surveillance showed Sanchez getting off the truck in the 2000 block of Moen Avenue.
Joliet District State Police confirmed that Sanchez was captured about 8:15 p.m. in the same block as the business.
Joining the search were police dogs, including from Cook County Sheriff’s Police, and a helicopter that’s shared between the sheriff’s office and Chicago Police, said Frank Bilecki, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s office.
Melanie, a Cook County Sheriff’s bloodhound, was with her handler, Officer Jim Pacetti, when she picked up a scent Sanchez left on a crutch in the corrections bus in a Waste Management yard on Moen Avenue that’s used to store portable toilets, Bilecki said. Police at first couldn’t find anyone in a nearby portable toilet.
But a corrections officer then noticed a footprint in the yard that matched the type of booty used by state inmates, and another dog caught the scent, confirming that Sanchez was somewhere in the area. Soon after, the joint Chicago-Cook County helicopter’s infrared sensors found someone in one of the portable toilets, Bilecki said.
Officers checked a portable toilet and saw movement in the toilet’s chemical tank, Bilecki said. Will County and Rockdale police were then able to capture him, authorities said.
Sanchez was last seen wearing tan IDOC-issued shirt and pants and that Sanchez "reportedly" injured one of his legs as he jumped from the van, Will County sheriff's office spokesman Ken Kaupas said.
Authorities were investigating whether Sanchez made his escape by kicking the van door open, according to Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman.
He was handcuffed and wearing a jumpsuit when he escaped while the van was moving, Elman said.
The extent of his injuries wasn't certain, but "he definitely was running," she said.
The Will County Sheriff's office later sent out a community alert stating Sanchez is believed to have injured one of his legs in the escape. Police warned residents to lock their doors and stay inside their homes during the 6-hour pursuit.
The Will County sheriff’s office, Illinois Department of Corrections Parole and Apprehension Unit, U.S. Marshall’s Service, Illinois State Police, Chicago Police and other local law enforcement agencies all participated in the search.
Tribune reporter Cynthia Dizikes contributed to this report.