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December 18, 2014

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Report: Inmate climbed atop basketball hoop to escape

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A physically fit inmate who was a known flight risk escaped from a central Arizona jail by hoisting himself atop a basketball hoop, grabbing on to an overhead security fence and breaking it apart, according to an investigative report released Monday.

No one was directly supervising the recreation yard when Wade Cole Dickinson escaped July 12 while awaiting transfer to a state prison, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office said. He remains at large, with the U.S. Marshals Service recently joining the hunt for him.

The report suggests Dickinson's classification as a medium-security inmate and his fitness level played a major part in his ability to flee the Camp Verde jail.

After the 6-foot-1, 190-pound former personal trainer broke through the overhead security fence, he ran across a roof and dropped about 30 feet before scaling an exterior fence with barbed wire, Sheriff Scott Mascher told The Associated Press.

"He was definitely in top physical condition," he said.

Dickinson wasn't discovered missing until someone called 911 to report a man in orange pants and a white shirt trying to steal a vehicle at a Camp Verde business. The jail was placed on lockdown and searched.

Authorities believe Dickinson, 28, used a basketball to break a security camera mounted on a wall in the outdoor recreation area. The camera has since been repaired, the basketball hoops removed, and all inmates in the recreation yard are under direct supervision.

Dickinson was under increased security during court hearings after jail staff received credible information that he would try to escape. The same level of cautiousness did not occur in housing, Mascher said. Dickinson was classified as a medium-security inmate, and no review of his classification was conducted after he was sentenced to nearly 25 years in state prison for fraud, drugs and possession of a firearm.

Mascher said the jail commander, Capt. David Rhodes, has identified ways to ensure that inmates are properly classified, security issues are addressed, and policy changes are made as needed. He said he couldn't recall another escape from the jail in more than 20 years.

"I am not taking it lightly," he said.

Dickinson's criminal history doesn't indicate he is violent. Instead, he's a con man, a "flimflam kind of guy," and a thief, Mascher said.

Louann Patterson, who owns the Cooper Star Indoor Shooting Range near the jail, said she didn't feel threatened when she saw Dickinson looking under the fenders of her son's truck the day he escaped. Dickinson told her he was looking for his keys. When she offered to help, she said he bolted over a barbwire fence, ran across a highway and jumped another barbwire fence.

She thought he had been released from jail, not that he had escaped.

"I really wish this man would just give himself up," Patterson said. "He's really making things worse for himself at this point."

A $7,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Dickinson's arrest.

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