Manhunt continues for man who stole Cleveland police cruiser
CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) - We have the very latest as officers in Bradley and Hamilton counties search for a man on the run after stealing and crashing a police cruiser.
"It's a manhunt. I mean what he did could have killed someone. We are very serious about catching him. It is top on our list and we will not stop until it's done," Cleveland Police Officer Evie West said.
We're learning new details as police ask for your help in finding 29-year-old Charles James Masengale who they consider dangerous.
Authorities in Bradley and Hamilton counties are continuing the man hunt. Sunday Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputies spotted him near the location of his last of 3 crashes, but weren't able to capture him. Now we're learning more about how he got loose in the first place.
Charles Masengale is the man Cleveland Police say fled from an accident just after nine Saturday night and led police on a chase from Guthrie Drive to Georgetown Road and Westside Drive where he crashed again. Police caught up to him with a woman and a large bag of meth in his car.
"He got Mr. Masengale out of the vehicle. He actually put him in custody at that time," Officer West said.
His female passenger faces charges but was taken to the hospital. While tending to her, the officer kept having to re-handcuff Masengale because he'd wiggle his hands around to the front of his body.
"He finally locked him in there and went and spoke to the witness," Officer West said.
Once in the back seat alone, that's when police say Masengale moved his cuffed hands from the back to his front, then opened a Plexiglass-glass window. He crawled through the small hole and into the driver's seat.
"He heard it accelerate and he turned and saw his police car actually going southbound on Westside Drive," Officer West said.
Leading police on another high speed chase, this time in their cruiser on Harrison Pike, where he crashed again just across the Hamilton County line, then took off running.
"I would definitely say he's dangerous," Officer West said.
Based on the meth his car, police worry about what someone on drugs might do next.
"If he's that desperate to get away from police, these people are willing to do whatever it takes," Officer West said.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says he broke into a home Saturday night on Mahan Gap Road near where he crashed the cruiser, thinking it was a relative's home, but realized it wasn't, and took off.
"Makes the story a little bit more scary because he's actually invading these homes," Officer West said.
Hamilton County deputies saw, then lost him out there Sunday, so dozens of officers from both counties continue to scour the area.
"It is the top of our list and we will not stop until it's done," Officer West said.
Cleveland Police are offering a reward for an undisclosed amount for info leading to Masengale's arrest on several felony charges. They say he's a Chattanooga resident and could show up in that area, possibly still in handcuffs.
Cleveland Police say they'll look into ways to avoid this from happening again. They've already been replacing their cruisers as they get the money, for those with bars instead of the Plexiglass partitions.
We'll keep you updated on the latest in this search.