Lexington escapee freed one hand from handcuffs, opened car door and fled, jail director says

While two corrections officers were driving Mustafa Qasem to jail, he was apparently in the back seat freeing one of his hands from his handcuffs. When the Ford Crown Victoria stopped on New Circle Road, Qasem opened the door and ran, Fayette Detention Center director Rodney Ballard told the Herald-Leader on Thursday.

Then Qasem made his way to a nearby industrial shop, where he cut off an electronic monitoring device, Ballard said.

Qasem, 21, was still on the lam at press time Thursday.

Ballard's interview Thursday provided more details about Wednesday's escape.

Jail officials issued a news release late Wednesday saying Qasem had been on house arrest pending trial on charges of trafficking in a controlled substance, tampering with a security device and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon and was on his way to jail because community corrections officers determined that Qasem had violated the conditions of his house arrest, the release said.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said all Lexington police officers should have Qasem's information after third shift roll call and will be looking for him along with several other fugitives wanted for other offenses.

"It's not as intense of a search, but all of our officers know to be looking for him," she said. "We're asking the public to call us if they see him or know his whereabouts. A specific tip about his whereabouts will intensify the search when we know he is in a specific area or a specific location."

Roberts said there was nothing to indicate Qasem is armed.

Neither corrections officer noticed Qasem had freed himself from the handcuffs, Ballard said.

Qasem's hands were handcuffed behind his back. Ballard said he thinks the corrections officers either put Qasem's handcuffs on too loosely or Qasem was able to withstand the pain of taking them off.

The Crown Victoria was on New Circle Road, shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, heading toward the jail on Old Frankfort Pike. Qasem slipped out when the car stopped near the Old Frankfort Pike exit, Ballard said. The car doors were locked, but Qasem was able to get out because the child restraint locking device on the back door was not in the correct position, Ballard said.

Authorities were able to track Qasem to a shop in an industrial park because he was wearing an electronic monitoring device.

Ballard said Qasem likely entered the shop through an open door and found a sharp instrument that allowed him to cut the device off his leg.

The electronic device was found on the shop floor, Ballard said.

Ballard said the corrections officers would not be disciplined over the escape, but he said he would probably send an email to jail staff to remind them to use better practices with handcuffs and child safety locks when transporting inmates.

"We're investigating to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Ballard. "Any time somebody gets away from our custody it's always a concern."

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