Manhunt crashes through county

Staff writer

A flurry of sirens and flashing lights roused Lincolnville residents Monday night as officers from six police departments descended on the town Monday in a manhunt for an escaped inmate whose stolen truck jumped a curb at US-56/77, sped through multiple yards, and crashed into the home of Greg Hubbard.

“I was sitting on the couch watching TV,” Hubbard said. “We heard the sirens and saw the lights. Then there was a loud crash and the house shook, and I just knew we’d been hit.”

He had heard there was a manhunt in progress for Trent Aaron Hostetter, 27, a Dickinson County Jail inmate who escaped while being held on multiple parole violations and awaiting sentencing on a charge of impersonating a police officer.

Hubbard hopped off his couch to investigate.

“He plowed that brown Chevy right through our garage door,” Hubbard said. “I was so startled and it all happened so quick that I only saw a glimpse of him as he ran around the northwest corner of our house.”

The impact did considerable damage to the front of Hubbard’s homeand to a 2014 Harley-Davidson motorcycle inside the garage.

“I told police that I believed he was barefoot because I saw some sandals discarded in the lawn,” Hubbard said.

A Herington officer who pursed Hostetter south from Herington also reportedly saw the escaped inmate head west on foot through Lincolnville before he temporarily disappeared.

According to Sheriff Robert Craft, Hostetter stole the truck in Abilene and drove it to a Ramona residence.

About 9 p.m., a concerned citizen notified dispatcher that Hostetter had left the residence and headed to Herington but planned to return to Ramona.

According to scanner transmissions, two sheriff’s deputies and one Marion officer were briefed by telephone. Dispatchers said they could not transmit the information over the air because the suspect might be monitoring police frequencies.

All headed toward US-56/77 around Lost Springs and Lincolnville. They reported having trouble with “mud pit” roads.

“Everybody got hung up by a train in Ramona,” sheriff’s deputy Mike Ottensmeier said. “At the time, there were six of us waiting for the train. We had to wait about five to seven minutes.”

Herington officer spotted Hostetter before he could return to Ramona and chased him to Lincolnville.

Dickinson County relayed the message to Marion County at 10:14 p.m.

Hostetter crashed into Hubbard’s house at 10:19 p.m.

At 10:26 p.m., Hostetter was reported barefoot in a deattached garage at Kansas and Lombard Sts.

Approximately 20 officers from multiple departments responded, including sheriff’s deputies from Marion and Dickinson County, Marion, Herington, Peabody, and Kansas Highway patrol.

Emergency management director Randy Frank responded, and Lincolnville fire and first response were called, along with Marion and Florence ambulances. EMS director Ed Debesis completed the short-staffed ambulance crew.

Officers positioned themselves at seemingly every intersection in Lincolnville and combed the area.

Marion police dog Legion and multiple Highway Patrol canine units were deployed as residents worried about doors ajar, an unlocked mobile home left on the street, and odd activity in their yards.

“There are an awful lot of abandoned houses, vegetation, and places to hide in Lincolnville,” Ottensmeier said. “But people don’t just vanish into thin air.”

Additional support from the Highway Patrol, including an airborne unit with forward looking infrared radar and an officer with night vision goggles, were called in.

A helicopter directed officers to reposition.

Canine tracked Hostetter west and south out of Lincolnville to railroad tracks where the dogs lost his trail on loose rocks, Craft said.

Dickinson and Marion County officers did not have access to a common set of radio frequencies.

“The biggest frustration was there was really no communication as far as the radios,” Ottensmeier said. “We were all doing the best we could with our cell phones and scanners.”

Craft said three different radio bands were used, and command posts established.

The search continued all night, with other officers called in to provide relief. The first break did not come until Tuesday morning when Craft said a county resident noticed footprints on a muddy portion of Pawnee Rd. northwest of Lincolnville.

“It gave us a fresh set of tracks to work off,” Craft said. “Eventually they crossed into Dickinson County, and their officers picked up the trail.”

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, 14 hours after the initial call went out, Dickinson County sheriff’s deputies apprehended Hostetter three miles northwest of Ramona.

Last modified July 28, 2016