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LEO Near Miss: Prisoner escapes patrol vehicle, attempts officer ambush

An officer survives a near miss after a suspect escapes custody and is found with a firearm


Support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared.


Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows law enforcement personnel to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.

Event summary

My partner and I stopped a possible DUI driver for a red-light violation. There was a male driver and a female passenger. My partner performed a DUI investigation, which seemed to be routine. Neither of us performed an initial pat down.

My partner placed the driver under arrest for being under the influence of a narcotic substance. I began speaking with the passenger of the vehicle while my partner did a quick search of the arrestee, cuffed him and placed him in the patrol vehicle. He then came to me to check on how the passenger would get home and to determine what to do with the vehicle.

We then heard the patrol vehicle door slam, and I observed the arrestee running across a large street with his hands free. My partner took off on foot, and I followed in the patrol vehicle.

I was unable to locate my partner until he came out of a driveway with no suspect in sight. We set up a perimeter, and I sent a unit to scoop up the passenger and the vehicle. However, the passenger and the vehicle were in the wind (never did locate it).

We formed a search team to look for the arrestee, and then we received a prowler call at an address across the street from our location. We tactically entered the long driveway to the side of a residence. As we broke the plane of the rear yard, I heard three clicks. As I looked to the left, I saw a shiny object hit the ground and observed the suspect standing around a corner. We took him into custody without incident. We then recovered an unloaded snub nose revolver. The suspect later claimed he found it in an alley a few days prior and was hoping it was loaded. It turned out to be a stolen gun.

Contributing risk factors

Several risk factors contributed to how this incident played out:

Lessons learned

This incident offers several lessons:

  • Avoid becoming complacent and slow down on the call. Once handcuffs go on the driver, conduct a good, methodical search of the suspect to locate any concealed weapons.
  • The suspect had a double-jointed thumb, which enabled him to remove one handcuff. Proper placement of handcuffs is critical. The hands should be placed back to back, and the cuffs should be double locked and checked for tightness.
  • In this situation, utilize another backup officer if available. This would allow the arresting officer to maintain custody and control of the prisoner while the second officer watches the passenger and the third officer searches the vehicle.


Support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared, and consider sharing your own near-miss experiences at

Established in 1970, the National Policing Institute, formerly the National Police Foundation, is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit research organization, sometimes referred to as a think-tank, focused on pursuing excellence in policing through science and innovation. Our research and applied use of research guide us as we engage directly with policing organizations and communities to provide technical assistance, training, and research and development services to enhance safety, trust, and legitimacy. To view our work, visit us at