- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

FREEPORT, N.Y. (AP) - A handcuffed prisoner seated in the back of a police car in a New York village was able to slip the cuffs in front of him and steal the police vehicle, leading officers on a chase before crashing into several parked cars in a residential community on Long Island, officials said Friday.

Police in the village of Freeport, about 30 miles from Manhattan, pulled over Andrew Howard’s minivan around 10 p.m. Thursday after an alert from license plate readers the village recently installed notified them that the 36-year-old had open warrants, authorities said.

The officers arrested Howard, handcuffing him and placing him in the back of a police sport-utility vehicle. But they say Howard was able to slip the handcuffs in front of him and squeeze through a small partition between the front and back seats. Police say the opening was about 1 foot square. Newsday reported Howard is 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 155 pounds.

“This is a very nimble and very agile individual …,” Det. Lt. Richard Lebrun, a Nassau County Police Department spokesman, said at a news conference Friday. “It was a sliding Plexiglas partition and nobody ever thought that an individual could squeeze through an 11.5 by 12 and a quarter square hole.”

Police said Howard made his way behind the wheel and took off in the police SUV, leading officers on a chase for nearly two miles before he crashed into four parked cars in a residential neighborhood in Merrick.

No injuries were reported.

Howard was arrested on charges including escape, resisting arrest, unlawful fleeing of police, and grand larceny. Two women who were in the minivan also were arrested after police say they found a knife in the van.

After his arrest, Howard was taken to a hospital for what police say was an unrelated medical condition. He remained hospitalized Friday night and will likely be arraigned Saturday, a spokesman for the Nassau County prosecutor’s office said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Howard had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

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