WARNER ROBINS -- A handcuffed Florida man managed to crawl through an opening in a Plexiglas partition and drive off in a Houston County sheriff’s patrol car Saturday.
Seth Ray Stewart, 21, of Park, Florida, had been pulled over on Interstate 75 about 1 p.m. after traveling 87 mph in a 70 mph lane, authorities said.
He and a passenger, 24-year-old Kimon Marcus Miller, who owns the 2004 Ford Taurus, were handcuffed from behind and put in the patrol car after deputies found less than a half-ounce of marijuana in the car, sheriff’s Capt. Ronnie Harlowe said.
While deputies were searching the car, Stewart -- 5 feet 9 inches tall and 120 pounds -- managed to get his handcuffed hands from around his back and crawl through the 11 1/2 inch-by-12 1/2 inch opening in the partition.
Stewart was able to start the patrol car, which has a push-button ignition. He took off down I-75, turned onto Ga. 26 and then abandoned the patrol car about five miles away, in 2300 block of U.S. 41 in south Houston County.
Stewart let Miller out of the vehicle before he ran into a wooded area, and Miller stayed put near the patrol car until deputies arrived.
Stewart was recaptured within an hour of his escape, Harlowe said. He has been charged with motor vehicle theft, escape, misdemeanor marijuana possession and multiple traffic offenses. Stewart also was charged with kidnapping for taking off in the patrol car with Miller inside. He was being held without bond Monday at the Houston County jail.
Harlowe said he has no idea why Stewart ran. Stewart has no known outstanding warrants and declined to talk with authorities.
Miller was charged with allowing an unlicensed person to drive and misdemeanor marijuana possession. He was being held Monday on a $1,700 bond in the county jail.
The partition was open to allow air to flow to the back seat of the vehicle to Stewart and Miller, Harlowe said. The partitions are expected to be modified to place a screen across the partition that would prevent a similar episode.
The incident involving deputies Brett Sanders and Shane Broome is being reviewed, but no disciplinary action has been taken and may or may not be warranted, Harlowe said.
The deputies moved back and forth from Sanders’ patrol vehicle as they searched Miller’s car.
Harlowe, who has been with the sheriff’s agency for more than 20 years, said he could not recall a similar incident.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.