Second escaped inmate caught in former neighborhood

Chicago Tribune reporter Jason Meisner on the recent arrest of Kenneth Conley, a convicted bank robber who escaped from federal jail in December. (Posted on: Jan. 4, 2013.)

The second inmate who made a daring escape last month from a high-rise federal jail in the South Loop was captured today in south suburban Palos Hills, according to FBI officials.

Kenneth Conley, a convicted bank robber, was awaiting sentencing when he and cellmate Joseph “Jose” Banks scaled about 15 floors down the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Dec. 18 with a rope fashioned from bedsheets.

FBI Spokeswoman Joan Hyde said Conley was apprehended at an apartment complex at about 4 p.m. by Palos Hills police.

Palos Hills Police Deputy Chief James Boie said officers apprehended Conley with the help of two maintenance men working at an apartment complex in the 10200 block of South 86th Terrace, who called police at about 3:30 p.m. to report a “suspicious person.''

In 2004, Conley used to live on another street of the Scenic Tree complex where police were initially called, Boie said.

At least two officers who had been checking out the complaint were talking with the building maintenance workers in the basement of the building on 86th Terrace but did not find Conley. 

As they were leaving, they saw their lieutenant outside on the street about a half a block away, involved in a dispute with Conley, who’d been walking eastbound, Boie said.

Conley was dressed in an overcoat, pretending to use a cane and was wearing glasses. He had a dark hat pulled down low over his head and appeared to be trying to look older than he actually was, Boie said.

“Our officers stopped to talk to him and he said he was just visiting,” Boie said. “He gave them a phony name, and while they’re trying to run the information, he got wise that they were going to figure it out and he pushed one of the officers down and took off running.”

Before fleeing, Conley slugged the lieutenant, a 30-year department veteran, and the lieutenant had injuries including a possible torn hamstring. Boie said the lieutenant was taken to Palos Community Hospital for treatment.

Boie said two additional officers responding to the scene caught the man -- later identified as Conley -- about a block away as he was trying to force his way into an apartment at the complex.

He was wrestled down but did not offer any other resistance. Conley was also taken to Palos Community Hospital for observation, according to Boie.

When police were called about the suspicious person, the lieutenant, a sergeant and an officer initially went to check it out, said police Chief Paul J. Madigan.

When Conley could not provide identification the struggle broke out, with Conley taking a swing at one of the officers before fleeing into one of the buildings, Madigan said.

Conley was finally apprehended when he tried to break into someone’s apartment, Madigan said.

Conley told police he injured his arm during the struggle.  He remains in the custody of federal authorities, Madigan said.

The multi-unit complex is made up of clusters of 2-story, brick buildings, with a wooded area behind it.

Police found a BB pistol in Conley’s pocket. He had no money, ID or other weapons, Boie said.

Boie said that U.S. Marshals had been in the area days earlier after getting a tip that Conley had knocked on the door of a former acquaintance.

Boie said Conley was known to the police because he’d had multiple resisting and obstructing arrests in 2004. Even still, they were surprised when they realized who they’d just arrested.

“I’m sure they were a little surprised that they had the guy standing in front of them,’’ Boie said.

As far as what happens next, Boie said it was not up to their department.

“It’s been turned over to the FBI and I’m sure the next move is theirs,’’ Boie said.

Boie said Conley was charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery and resisting arrest for today’s incident.

Conley’s mother, Sandra, answered the phone at her Tinley Park home this evening and said she had heard of her son’s arrest but had no details or comment.

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