COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An escaped prison inmate used the phone at a small general store and bought an iced tea and a lighter at a counter where his mug shot was displayed before a customer tackled him, ending a daylong search in a matter of minutes, store workers said Friday.
Store employees told the owner that James David Myers tried to use change from his pocket to cover up his picture before he was tackled and tied up with rope off the shelf Thursday night, less than 24 hours after he was found to be missing from a prison about 8 miles away in Mansfield.
The prison and the State Highway Patrol have refused to discuss how Myers, who worked in the prison's maintenance area, escaped before a headcount Wednesday, his 47th birthday.
Employees at the Olivesburg General Store in rural north-central Ohio reported that Myers asked to use the phone Thursday evening, saying he needed to call for help because his vehicle broke down nearby, said store owner Connie Crossen, who arrived later. Myers, in a white T-shirt and dark pants, had been carrying a coat labeled with the prison's abbreviation, Crossen said.
Employee Greg Gallaway said he was scooping ice cream when, in disbelief, he and a customer wearing an American flag shirt for the Fourth of July recognized Myers at about the same time.
"I'm kind of looking around the room, like, `Is anyone else seeing what I'm seeing right now?'" said Gallaway, 20.
The customer in the flag shirt, Mark Cooper, told Cleveland's WEWS-TV he had figured Myers was long gone, but he became suspicious when he overheard a man ask to use the store phone. Cooper – 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds – said he called authorities and then decided to take action, hoping to keep others safe, but couldn't tell whether Myers had a weapon beneath his clothes.
"I just walked back over there and threw him to the ground, didn't give him a chance to get a gun," Cooper told the station. Surveillance video from the store shows Cooper grabbing Myers from behind and pinning him to the floor.
"It was awesome, honestly," said Gallaway. He said Myers didn't resist once pinned, and others helped tie him up.
Myers was taken back to the prison, where he'd been held for the rape, kidnapping and other crimes.
Though authorities had warned the public not to engage Myers if he was spotted, Crossen said she was proud of how employees handled the situation. Gallaway said it didn't occur to him until afterward that the inmate might have been armed.
"While we wouldn't encourage people to take action regarding a dangerous criminal who had just escaped from prison, you know, we understand that they did what they had to do," said Lt. Anne Ralston, a patrol spokeswoman. "We're thankful to get him into custody without incident and get him back to the prison without anybody getting hurt."
Prison officials wouldn't say whether Myers previously tried to escape.
Myers, formerly of Mogadore, was imprisoned in 2010 on kidnapping, rape, aggravated burglary and other charges out of northeast Ohio's Summit County. Prosecutors alleged he raped a woman at gunpoint and forced her to consume cocaine, and an appeals court upheld his conviction, according to court records.
Find reporter Kantele Franko on Twitter at . http://www.twitter.com/kantele10
Also on HuffPost:
Ronaldo Silva allegedly broke out of a Brazilian prison by dressing in drag in April 2012. He was caught less than an hour later by a cop who noticed that he was walking funnily in heels. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/prison-escape-in-drag_n_1431558.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Tiffany Hurd, 36, actually allegedly commited a jail break-IN. She was nabbed in July 2012 trying to hop a barbed-wire fence to enter Butler County Jail in Ohio. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/tiffany-hurd-jail-ohio_n_1719531.html" target="_hplink">Read more. </a>
Philippine Jail Break
Eleven prisoners, including bandit leader Datukan Samad, allegedly hacksawed their way through the iron grills of Maguindanao Province Jail in July 2012. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/philippine-jail-escape-datukan-samad_n_1661789.html" target="_hplink"> Read more.</a>
This picture shows 3 of the 4 inmates who allegedly escaped from a central Kansas jail in April 2012. Murderer Santos Carrera-Morales (center), kidnapper Eric James (left), assault convict Alberto Barraza-Lujan (not pictured) and aggravated battery convict Drew Wade (right) were all eventually discovered in Nebraska by authorities. The incident raised questions about prison security. 3 of the 4 prisoners allegedly drove away from the jail in a Nissan Altima. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/santos-carrera-morales-escaped-murderer-caught_n_1440194.html" target="_hplink"> Read more.</a>
Sometimes furry critters want to join the convicts. In July 2012, authorities removed a bobcat crawling around the roof of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington. Check out the animalicious video <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/bobcat-breaks-into-prison_n_1679634.html" target="_hplink">here.</a>
Cortez Hooper, Quincy Stewart
Murder suspects Hooper and Stewart allegedly escaped from a jail in Arkansas in May 2012. The pair reportedly used a hacksaw to break the bars on the windows of their second-story cells and smashed a pane of glass. Authorities say they pushed their mattresses out the window to soften their landings. The two were discovered by authorities shortly thereafter. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/28/arkansas-jail-break-manhunt_n_1551158.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Failed Jail Break Plot
Donald Kohut and Justin Heflin were charged with plotting to help murderer Christa Pike escape from prison in March 2012. Pike was convicted with her then-boyfriend of the 1996 slaying of Colleen Slemmer. The motive for murder was believed to stem from a love triangle. Pike and Tadaryl Shipp carved a pentagram into Slemmer's chest and then stabbed and beat her to death, according to authorities. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/christa-gail-pike-jail-break_n_1369934.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Suitcase Prison Plot
In July 2011, Maria del Mar Arjona, 19, allegedly tried to sneak her inmate husband Juan Ramirez Tijerina out of prison in Mexico in some luggage. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/04/suitcase-prison-escape-mexico_n_890012.html" target="_hplink"> Read more.</a>
Armin Christian, 65, was found in May 2012 after fleeing prison in South Carolina 31 years ago. Christian was reportedly living in Rhode Island as a handyman under a new name. He was originally sentenced to 11 months in prison for failing to pay child support. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/armin-christian-arrested-escaping-prison-south-carolina_n_1545604.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Man Got Out To Get Off
Even inmates can get horny. In March 2012, murder suspect Arien L'Italien allegedly left his cell and wandered over to the women's inmate block, in order to have sex with Karla Wilson. Authorities spotted L'Italien as he was crawling back to his cell. L'Italian and Wilson were both then transferred to different areas of the facility. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/arien-litalien-escapes-jail-sex-karla-wilson-maine_n_1342421.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>