Police: Man who tried entering Army base caught

This frame grab from video courtesy KTVI Fox 2/KPLR11 shows authorities surrounding a vehicle on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus Thursday, May 12, 2011, in Rolla, Mo. Officials say a gunman tried to break into a Missouri Army base and fired on police who pursued him before crashing a vehicle at the university, which went on lockdown after he was seen walking into a campus building. (AP Photo/courtesy KTVI Fox 2/KPLR11)
May 12, 2011 1:23:25 PM PDT
A 31-year-old Missouri man has been arrested after a four-hour, 40-mile police pursuit that began when he reportedly tried to break into an Army base Thursday morning before firing on police who pursued him and then crashing a vehicle at a nearby university. Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse said that a state Highway Patrol trooper took Cody N. Willcoxson, of South West City, into custody Thursday afternoon, hours after they say he tried sneaking into nearby Fort Leonard Wood using a fake ID. His motives for attempting to enter the military installation were not immediately clear.

Willcoxson was bleeding and may have been shot in the arm or hand, but otherwise no one was hurt, Kearse said.

Willcoxson was released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 2008 after serving about 3 1/2 years for burglary, escaping from jail, and other felonies.

On Thursday, instead of leaving Ft. Leonard Wood, Willcoxson accelerated rapidly, drove his car through a security gate and then led military police on a chase that ended when he drove back out the front gate, where the local St. Robert Police Department and Pulaski County Sheriff's Department joined the pursuit.

St. Robert Police Chief Curtis Curenton said the officers had been on Interstate 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, who said he was also shot at by Willcoxson, said the suspect fired dozens of shots at 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."

Officers put "stop sticks" on the road and punctured a tire before Willcoxson reached Rolla. He was soon forced to ditch the vehicle just before 9 a.m. near the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where spring semester classes had 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.

Much of Rolla was shut down while the manhunt unfolded, including local public schools. The pursuit passed Rolla High School, Kearse said.

"There were citizens all over," he said. "He drove in front of the high school and stared at me. There were students behind me, so I didn't fire."

Kearse said Willcoxson provided an address in Pulaski County, near the military base. He was initially charged with four felony counts of armed criminal action for engaging in gunfire with officers and will likely face additional charges.

Willcoxson was among nine inmates who attacked a jailer and fled on foot from the Delaware County Jail in Oklahoma. He had escaped twice previously, and authorities suspected him of masterminding the jail break.

During the escape, a prisoner attacked the jailer, stole his keys, kicked in the door to the sheriff's office and stole a .22-caliber rifle before all nine slipped out the side door of the courthouse, the Tulsa World reported at the time.


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