Okla. prisoner dialed 911 to report escape
He could have fled with 2 other inmates who stole an unattended van, but reported the incident instead
By Justin Juozapavicius
TULSA, Okla. — Prisoner Joshua Silverman passed up a taste of freedom this week and called the police instead.
Silverman could have fled with two other inmates who stole the unattended transport van he was riding in, but he dialed 911 and alerted authorities about the escape.
"Uh, yes, ma'am, you're probably not going to believe this, but I'm a prisoner in a van, and I'm here with a couple of these other cats," Silverman politely explained to the 911 operator Tuesday. "A couple of the guys that were in the van jacked the van ... at the hospital."
Guards from a private prison transport company had stopped in Weatherford, about an hour west of Oklahoma City, to deliver some ill inmates to a hospital. They left eight other prisoners, including Silverman, in the van unsupervised.
With the guards gone, authorities say inmates Lester Burns and Michael Coleman kicked out a partition in the van and moved up front, where the keys remained and the motor was still running so the prisoners could have air conditioning.
Burns and Coleman drove the van for about a mile before ditching it and fleeing on foot, according to police.
Silverman, one of six inmates left behind, was reluctant to escape. Still shackled, he somehow managed to get out of the van — perhaps through the kicked-out partition — and dialed 911 with a cellphone police believe he might have found in the vehicle.
During the nearly four-minute audio clip that Weatherford police released Thursday, Silverman struggled to explain the van's whereabouts. After the dispatcher asked for a specific location, the prisoner volunteered to walk to a nearby road to flag down an officer.
"We're in Oklahoma somewhere. I don't know because we're not on a road and I'm not from here," Silverman told the dispatcher. "I just don't want to get shot by no cops or nothing."
The dispatcher asked Silverman where the rest of the prisoners were. Five other inmates remained besides him.
"We're all in the van," he said. "Two of the dudes took off. The dudes that were doing whatever they were doing took off."
Silverman remained on the phone until a patrolman arrived on the scene. "The cops are right here!" he told the dispatcher.
Silverman was in custody on drug-related charges and being taken to Wisconsin on the day of the escape, Weatherford Assistant Police Chief Louis Flowers said Thursday. Wisconsin court records indicate Silverman was convicted of bail jumping, drug manufacturing and disorderly conduct during the past several years.
Flowers said Silverman's call Tuesday helped police narrow their search for Burns and Coleman, who were taken back into custody later that day.
"It helped us locate them a lot quicker," Flowers said. "We didn't know what direction they were traveling in and his call helped us" pinpoint their location.
Coleman was being held in an assault case and Burns for nonpayment of child support, police said.
All of the inmates were from jails in the western and northern U.S. and were being transported to agencies in those parts of the country.
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