ROLLA, Mo. (AP) – The last time he ran from the law, Cody Nathaniel Willcoxson managed to elude capture for three years after leading a nine-inmate jail break in rural Oklahoma.
A decade later, his latest legal run-in ended Thursday with Willcoxson’s nonviolent arrest.
But only after a four-hour, 40-mile manhunt that included an interstate shootout, the shutdown of a Missouri college campus where he crashed his car and a failed effort to break into a military base.
“He had a propensity to escape jail. He was very good at it,” said Mike Shambaugh, police chief in the northeast Oklahoma town of Jay, recalling three jail escapes by the now 31-year-old Willcoxson. “He was the poster child for always trying to escape. … It seemed like he was always getting out.”
Willcoxson, who now lives in southwest Missouri, was charged Thursday with assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and armed criminal action and ordered held on $1 million cash bond.
No lawyer was listed in online records.
More charges are expected.
Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse said a state Highway Patrol trooper arrested Willcoxson, who is from Southwest City, after he tried sneaking into Fort Leonard Wood using a suspicious-looking ID.
His motives for trying to get into the Army post were not immediately clear.
Instead of leaving when ordered, Willcoxson rapidly accelerated and drove through a security gate, leading military police on a chase until he drove out another gate where local law enforcement took up the pursuit along the heavily travelled Interstate 44.
St. Robert Police Chief Curtis Curenton said officers had been on I-44 for only a couple miles when the driver began firing shots from what appeared to be an AK-47. Curenton said he followed the gunman about 32 miles to Rolla when
his driver’s-side mirror was hit with one round and his engine compartment was hit by another.
Kearse said Willcoxson fired dozens of shots at him and other officers from several departments, reloading the assault rifle as he drove.
“He stuck his AK out and probably shot at least 15 to 25 rounds at cars behind us,” Kearse said. “I can’t believe nobody was hit with the way he was shooting out the windows.”
Willcoxson was bleeding and may have been shot in the arm or hand, but otherwise no one was hurt, Kearse said. He also said police found crystal methamphetamine in Willcoxson’s car.
Officers put “stop sticks” on the road and punctured a tire before Willcoxson reached Rolla, home to Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Police said he was soon forced to ditch the vehicle just before 9 a.m. near the 7,200-student college, where spring classes ended last week.
He reportedly entered McNutt Hall, which houses the school’s Department of Mining and Nuclear Engineering.
Campus police issued an alert telling those on campus to remain indoors and everyone else to stay away.
The suspect left campus without firing a shot, campus police said.
The campus remained locked down until nearly 2 p.m., almost an hour after Willcoxson was arrested.
Willcoxson is accused of breaking into a nearby home and driving away in the homeowner’s Ford Taurus after demanding the keys.
He was caught on a county road south of Rolla and did not resist arrest, authorities said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press