Friday, July 17, 2015

CAPTURED!! Manhunt in Winston County Successful - Yields Escapee and Accomplice

A manhunt last night (Thursday, July 16) in southeast Winston County resulted in the capture of a prison escapee from the Union County Jail. Michael Shafer escaped in the early morning hours on Thursday from the Union County facility. With family ties in the Nanih Waiya area, local law enforcement including Sheriff Jason Pugh had suspicions that Shafer would likely head to Winston County.

The almost two week long saga of Shafer began on July 5th when he was arrested after a traffic stop in Winston County by a county sheriff deputy. Guns and drugs were confiscated from the vehicle that Shafer was driving. It was discovered that Shafer was currently on parole from the Pontotoc area and after processing he was returned to the Union County Jail for parole violations.

Shafer managed to escape from Union County sometime in the early morning hours on Thursday. Shafer's brother, Timothy Shafer and sister, Sarah Datakji  have been arrested in the New Albany area by Union County authorities and face charges of conspiracy or aiding and abetting his escape.

Upon learning of the escape, Winston County Sheriff Jason Pugh and Keith Alexander, Chief of Patrol, made contact with Shafer's local family members  - with the expectation that Shafer would return to the Nanih Waiya area.

After interrogating Krystal Shafer, the escapee's wife, law enforcement learned that she had traveled to Union County during the morning and transported the escapee to Winston County. The woman indicated that upon learning that law enforcement officers were at her home, she dropped Shafer off near a wooded area along Hwy 490 near McKinney Road. Her reported involvement resulted in her arrest.

A cooperative manhunt began around 1:30 pm on Thursday and extended into the night. Officials from the Winston County Sheriff's Department, the Ms. Highway Patrol, U.S. Marshals, officials from Ms Wildlife and Fisheries and several officers from Union County were involved in the search that utilized a Highway Patrol helicopter and the County's drug/rescue dog.

Sheriff Pugh indicated that the extreme heat hampered the search in several ways. The high temperatures made the heat seeking technology used by the aircraft unreliable and limited the use of the County's K-9 officer.

The search extended into the evening when further tips indicated that Shafer was likely hiding in a family member's home on Ebenezer Road (off of East Winston Rd.)

CLARIFICATION: The above statement may have given the impression that other family members may have been complicit in hiding Michael Shafer. This is not correct nor was it our intent - as family members at the residence actually contacted law enforcement and provided the information that led to his arrest. In a further interview with WWN, Sheriff Pugh wished to express his thanks to family members for their cooperation during a trying time.  A 911 call from the residence led law enforcement to the residence on Ebenezer Road where Shafer was found.  We apologize for any misunderstanding.

The Winston County Sheriff and deputies surrounded the property and upon entering the residence, took Shafer into custody around midnight without further incident.

Sheriff Pugh w Deputy Jimmy Lovorn
& K-9  "Cade" (at a previous event)
Upon interrogating Shafer after his capture, officials learned that Shafer had been in hiding in the top of a brush pile during the day and that the County's K-9 had tracked near his location but that the dog had been pulled back from the field over concerns about endangering the animal due to the extreme heat.

After dark, Shafer crawled through a soybean field and crossed the highway to the residence where he was later captured.

Sheriff Pugh took the opportunity to thank fellow law enforcement for their assistance:

 "The cooperative effort with state and other local law enforcement is important in situations like this. We have been fortunate to have such good working relationships with all and I certainly appreciate their work and help in this case."

"I also have to mention the great support from the community and local leaders in that area. The citizens did a great job for us. They didn't panic, were watchful and property owners were very cooperative."

After his capture, Winston County deputies transported Shafer to Macon where he was transferred to the custody of Union County authorities around 1:00 am on Friday.