UNION COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — Recently, there was a big manhunt in Union County for an escaped inmate. He was being held on charges of stealing a vehicle and several traffic violations.
So, why did law enforcement pull out all the stops for a massive manhunt? 7NEWS dug deeper to find out.
“He had a list of about 40 people that he wanted to kill,” said Neil McKeown, director of the Union County Detention Center. “You can’t take it lightly. So, all hands were on deck trying to get him.”
David Strickland escaped from the Union County Detention Center on Sept. 30. He was on the run for more than a week.
“You have someone that escaped from jail, you know. So, there’s a rhyme and a reason behind of why they done that. Whether that’s to harm someone or just to run,” said Captain Scott Coffer.
McKeown said Strickland escaped from the work camp area. He went through a fire exit and into a small, fenced-in area.
“But when he went out, he carried a blanket and a bunch of clothes with him and threw them over the razor wire,” said McKeown.
The first night, Sheriff Jeff Bailey said it was only law enforcement from the Union County area searching.
“We’ve got an obligation to the community to keep searching and that’s what we were going to do,” said Sheriff Bailey.
As each day passed, they realized they needed more help.
“We didn’t have the manpower we needed,” said the sheriff. “So, I reached out to neighboring counties. Spartanburg County, York County, Greenville County was involved. U.S. Marshals, their fugitive team, and SLED.”
7NEWS reporter Alessandra Young asked the sheriff directly if this escaped inmate making a verbal hit list, threatening law enforcement and other people made them use extra resources when trying to apprehend him.
“Yes, we felt like we needed to use as many resources as possible to apprehend this individual, because the more time he spent on the run, the better his chances were that he could acquire a weapon or try and take care of some of these people he had threatened,” said Bailey.
Law enforcement found out about the “hit list” by speaking with other inmates after Strickland escaped. Near the top of that list was Captain Scott Coffer.
“It was later on that night that I learned about this list by some of the jail staff and they told me that I was on there,” he said.
The captain said it is not the first time he’s been threatened.
“When you have a family, you always want to protect them,” said Captain Coffer. “So, on that side of it, yeah, you always kind of, maybe look over your shoulder for a minute.”
Just when they were running out of tips and places to look, they got the call they were hoping for.
Strickland was recaptured inside an abandoned house.
Captain Coffer said after searching extensively, they found him hiding inside the insulation in the attic. He said they were able to find him all thanks to a CrimeStoppers tip.
Strickland has a record dating back to 1996. This was his second escape from jail.
His first escape was back in 2002 from a prison in Bennettsville. That time, he was recaptured the same day.
What landed him in the Union County Jail this past August, Captain Coffer said, was stealing a car and various traffic violations.
On the morning of Aug. 30, that stolen truck was spotted.
“Knew it 100% was him, tried to block him in and he went come around me and then we had a vehicle pursuit,” said Captain Coffer.
Captain Coffer said Strickland did damage to property, like destroying a church fence, during the chase. After he crashed, Captain Coffer took him into custody. Which, he believed, landed him on that verbal hit list.
Now, back behind bars, McKeown said Strickland is being kept in a maximum security cell, and is being watched at all hours.
As for the entire hunt and recapturing, Sheriff Bailey said it’s a collaborative effort between multiple agencies.
“We work as hard as we can and we use all the resources we have available to us and just be patient, but we won’t ever give up. I promise you that,” said Sheriff Bailey.
The sheriff said the scale of any manhunt depends on the particulars of the case and Strickland’s threats escalated their response.
There are steps being taken to keep this kind of thing from happening again.
The detention center director said they are improving the razor wire at the work camp building.
He said overcrowding played a huge role in Strickland being moved to that work camp building and had a lot to do with his ability to escape.
He said they are planning to build an addition to the jail, which will give them 62 additional beds.