Houdini Act: Video shows woman wriggle free of handcuffs to steal patrol car, deputies say

Houdini Act: Video shows woman wriggle free of handcuffs to steal patrol car, deputies say

SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - We have obtained the dashcam footage showing a Sumter woman who deputies say was involved in three bizarre accidents stealing a patrol car on Wednesday.

Thornton's mother said she has a history of mental illness, but Sheriff Anthony Dennis disagreed with that assessment.

“I believe a mental evaluation would be appropriate, but I do believe that her actions were not that of a mental person – that she knew what she was doing," Dennis said. 

Thornton, sheriff's officials now say, was driving her boyfriend's car when it broke down near Eagle Road and Broad Street. Original information from the sheriff's office indicated Thornton may have stolen the car, but that was not the case.

A Good Samaritan, identified as Freddie Lang, attempted to help Thornton jump start the car, according to an incident report. That's when things spun out of control, the incident report details.

The report said Lang allowed Thornton in his car so he could take her back to her uncle's home. The report continues and says while Lang was driving the car, Thornton grabbed the steering wheel and forced the car into oncoming traffic.

However, the report said, Lang was able to grab back control of the wheel in enough time to narrowly avoid a head-on collision with a Cadillac Escalade. The report said the side-view mirrors of both cars did connect in the almost-crash, forcing both drivers to pull over.

It was at that point, the report said, Thornton jumped out of Lang's car and ran over to the driver of the Escalade, identified as Shanekia Dowe. The report said Lang walked over to the pair and overheard Dowe tell Thornton that the police needed to be called.

At that moment, according to the report, Thornton darted back into Lang's car and sped off from the scene.

Thornton, deputies say, then wrecked Lang's car on Pinewood Road a short time later before she got out of the car and began walking back to town.

Shortly after, she was picked up by a tow truck driver who took her back to the wrecked car on Pinewood Road where authorities arrested her.

Once inside the patrol car, deputies say video shows Thornton's Houdini-act. It shows her first slipping out of one handcuff and diving through a gap between the back seat and the front of the car. That's where deputies say she gunned it and narrowly missed hitting two officers.

The chase lasted about 15 minutes and ended when Thornton crashed through a gate and fence at Sumter Industrial Park before plowing into a tree. She was once again taken into custody.

Video from a viewer who was at the scene shows the aftermath where deputies arrested Thornton.

Deputies say Thornton caused about $15,000 worth of damage to Sumter Industrial Park and more than $10,000 worth of damage to the patrol car. There has not been an estimate of damages for the Good Samaritan's car yet.

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