Escaped prisoner nabbed at airport by US Airways employees

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Steve Ryan

Posted on April 27, 2012 at 7:54 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 27 at 10:31 PM

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PHOENIX -- US Airways employees grabbed and held a prisoner who tried to make an escape at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport late Thursday afternoon.

It happened at about 5 p.m. John Riebesel, 22, was being extradited from Detroit to Yavapai County.

While in Terminal 3, he managed to slip the two Yavapai County sheriff's deputies who were accompanying him as they walked toward and elevator.

It appears that Riebesel intended to try and escape early on. During the flight from Detroit, he managed to remove an ankle bracelet officers would have been able to use to deliver an electric shock.

When he ran, the deputies with him immediately activated the device only to discover that Riebesel was no longer wearing it.

Riebesel found his way to the tarmac area of Terminal 4, where he reportedly tried to steal a tug used to move airplanes. Those heavy tugs have a top speed of about 17 mph, according to Bruce Haffner, the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper pilot.

A US Airways employee spotted Riebesel on the tarmac and asked to see his ID. Riebesel claimed to have forgotten it. That's when he tried to steal the tug.

The airline employee and several of his colleagues captured held Riebesel until police arrived on the scene to take him into custody.

"This was a great effort on the part of the US. Airways employees who, as an important part of the airport security structure, are trained to react to suspicious persons and items in the areas where they work," said Officer James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department in a news release.

Holmes also said the Riebesel never had access to the runway of any of planes.

Already facing drug charges in Yavapai County, Riebesel is now facing escape charges, among others, in Maricopa County. He has been turned over to Yavapai County officials.

The deputies who were escorting Riebesel when he escaped have not been identified.

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