Man charged in Georgia sheriff’s death escapes jail transfer

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – A prisoner charged with killing a Georgia sheriff slipped out of his leg shackles and used them to smash a patrol car window Tuesday, escaping deputies who were transferring him to a different jail, authorities said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said about 100 sheriff’s deputies and law officers were still hunting for Jim Edward Lowery on Tuesday evening, hours after he slipped away into woods outside the jail in Laurens County, about 100 miles west of Savannah.

“Right at the sheriff’s office, he was able to escape,” GBI agent Lindsey Giddens said. “They were in the process of moving where he was being housed.”

Lowery was awaiting trial on charges of felony murder and other crimes in the June 16 death of Montgomery County Sheriff Ladson O’Connor, who crashed his patrol truck during a high-speed chase in which Lowery is accused of firing gunshots at pursuing deputies.

On Tuesday morning, Lowery was driven in a patrol car from the lockup in neighboring Treutlen County to the Laurens County jail.

As the car arrived at the jail, Lowery managed to slip off his leg shackles and use them to smash a window, the GBI said in a news release Tuesday evening. He fled into nearby woods, eluding the Treutlen County deputy escorting him.

Authorities said Lowery was wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs when he escaped, but the handcuffs were later found intact lying on a roadway.

Laurens County sheriff’s officials did not return phone calls Tuesday. The GBI said several law enforcement agencies were assisting with the manhunt, and authorities were using aircraft and dogs in the search.

Court records listed David E. Morgan as Lowery’s defense attorney. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association has said O’Connor was the first Georgia sheriff killed in the line of duty in more than 20 years.

O’Connor was helping deputies chase Lowery when he crashed his vehicle and died on Georgia Highway 56 near Mount Vernon, a rural region of southeast Georgia where farmers grow famously sweet Vidalia onions.

Authorities say the chase began when deputies assisting a motorist on the roadside noticed an approaching vehicle turn suddenly, as though the driver hoped to avoid being spotted. Lowery fled when the deputies tried to stop him and fired gunshots at three law officers during the chase, authorities have said.

O’Connor joined when the pursuit crossed into Montgomery County. Deputies arrested Lowery after using spiked strips to deflate the tires of his vehicle. Also arrested and charged was Lowery’s passenger, Nicole Dixie Best.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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