LINO LAKES, Minn. (KMSP) - A prisoner who drove off in a state transport van with eight other inmates May 26 has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and one count of escape from custody, according to a criminal complaint released Monday.
The incident started when the driver of a transport van left the vehicle running while stopped outside an intake garage of the Lino Lakes detention facility, telling investigators later that he wanted to keep the air conditioning on so the inmates would not get overheated.
James Mitchell overpowered the driver and drove off, with his eight counterparts yelling "stop, don't kill us!" according to a recorded phone call Mitchell made from another detention facility after later being caught.
The other inmates told police they jumped out of the moving vehicle in Mounds View, with five of them stopping at a nearby house to ask its occupant to call police to pick them up. The other three made it to Minneapolis before calling authorities as well.
Mitchell was apprehended a few hours later in Minneapolis near the 8th Street SE bridge after a 911 caller reported a man stumbling into traffic.
Authorities confirmed in their investigation that the other prisoners were not involved in any criminal activity, all telling detectives that they were scared of being hurt or killed as Mitchell drove erratically through traffic.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $35,000 in fines.