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Cartoon escapee running through corn field

Behind the Badge - The Escapee

The Escapee

District Game Warden Andrew Dahlgren

Road checks or check stations are a tool wardens use from time to time to focus on a specific area or violation during the hunting or fishing seasons.

The size of the check station ranges from a minimum of two wardens up to whatever amount the supervisors deem necessary to safely complete the task.

For the wardens involved, they are usually enjoyable as you get to work with your co-workers and make many contacts.

In October of 2011, the southeast region wardens were running a two-day check station at the Oriska rest area focusing on waterfowl hunters.

Given the amount of traffic on interstate, this was a larger check station that involved the North Dakota Highway Patrol, US Fish and Wildlife Service Agents, and deputies from Barnes County.

The check station had been up and running for a couple of hours when a state radio call came out for any available units for a prisoner escape at the Oriska rest area.

I was just walking back to the check station when the call came out.

I remember thinking to myself, those guys are going to have an interesting day.

When state radio paged the second time for available units, it dawned on me that I was at the Oriska rest area.

I looked around and saw the prison transport van and the guards were frantically motioning at me.

I ran to their location, and they said that one of their prisoners had run north across interstate and into the standing corn field.

I, along with another warden, ran north across interstate and into the corn field.

The other warden and I walked slowly through the corn field checking each row of corn as best we could.

Eventually we made it to a small clearing in the corn and came across the prisoner’s footprints in the dirt.

We followed the footprints for awhile before they disappeared.

While we were following the footprints through the field, other units were surrounding the field from the east and west.

The north side of the field abutted a large wetland and railroad tracks making it difficult to get to.

Due to the difficulties getting to the north side of the field, it was decided my co-worker and I should back out and not push the prisoner.

The highway patrol brought their plane from Bismarck with the FLIR (forward looking infrared) camera to the area, but due the heat from the corn and cattails the prisoner was unable to be located.

The agencies involved searched for the escaped prisoner until well after dark at which point the search was called off.

We left the area that night not sure what the next day would bring.

The next day we headed back to the Oriska rest area.

While we were enroute, the escaped prisoner was spotted at a farmstead a couple miles north of interstate and all units responded to the area.

The prisoner once again ran into a cornfield.

Units from numerous agencies surrounded the corn field and took up blocking positions as the local farmers started up their combines.

Another warden and I were partnered and we set up in an elevated deer stand.

The two of us spent the day staring out the window looking for the slightest of movement in front of us while watching the combines with officers mounted on them clearing the corn field.

It was early afternoon when the escaped prisoner was caught.

He spent 22 hours on the run in the wetlands and cornfields of North Dakota.

When asked why he ran, the prisoner said that he was not being fed properly.

The 22-hour manhunt cost the local farmers and law enforcement agencies around $90,000 while the re-captured inmate added three months onto his prison sentence.

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