Courtroom drama leads to prisoner escaping
A routine sentencing on a criminal vehicular operation case turned into being anything but normal in a Steele County courtroom last week.
The defendant, Adam John Flategraff, 27, of Albert Lea, openly ignored the judge’s order from the bench to not have contact with his girlfriend who was in the courtroom and eventually escaped from a sheriff’s deputy before fleeing out of the courthouse, launching a two-hour manhunt before he was captured again by area police officers. Flategraff now faces a new felony charge of escape from custody.
The drama began to unfold just after Judge Joseph Bueltel sentenced Flategraff for a 2017 criminal vehicular operation charge. After the judge remanded Flategraff into the custody of sheriff’s personnel, Flategraff asked if he could get a hug from his girlfriend. Bueltel told him, “No.” But Flategraff ignored the judge’s command, turned and hurried over to his girlfriend, leaned over the bench and kissed her.
A sheriff’s deputy grabbed Flategraff’s right arm, pulled him away from his girlfriend and sat him down in the front pew. The deputy then took Flategraff out of the courtroom and down the stairs to the first floor. As the two got to the front door of the Bailiff’s office, Flategraff turned and ran down the stairs and out the emergency door at the bottom of the stairs.
Owatonna Police joined the sheriff’s office in searching the area for Flategraff, who was last seen running south past the county attorney’s office on Cedar Avenue. Faribault Police also responded with a K-9 unit.
The K-9 track ended in the area of the 100 block of School Street East. Officers received permission from the renter to search the property. The renter told police the attached garage was locked and isn’t normally locked. Police used a pocket knife to pop the door open. Officers searched the garage and no one was located.
Police continued to search the same area with the renter again consenting for officers to search the apartment and garage. Officers announced for Flategraff to come out or the K-9 would bite him. Shortly after the K-9 went into the garage to search, officers heard a man groaning. They found the K-9 biting Flategraff, who was on the floor hiding in the northwest corner. He had a tan sheet covering him up.
Prior to escaping, Flategraff appeared before Judge Bueltel for a Feb. 25, 2017 case in which he caused gross negligence of great bodily harm during a traffic crash on Interstate 35 near Ellendale. Flategraff was operating a semi-tractor trailer that crashed into five cars on an ice and snow covered roadway.
During a post-crash inspection, the State Patrol retrieved the event recorder data from Flategraff’s semi. The data indicated Flategraff was traveling 47-50 mph from 1-10 seconds prior to the chain-reaction crash, which was started by Flategraff’s semi. Upon the heavy brake application at the 1 second mark after brakes were applied, Flategraff was still traveling 35 mph. The patrol also determined after Flategraff applied his brakes, it took 11 seconds to come to final rest.
Flategraff told troopers that he had looked over at his GPS unit just prior to the crash. Flategraff said he looked at the GPS for “like two seconds.” He also acknowledged to investigators that he knew the road was icy just past Owatonna as he was heading southbound.
A 32-year-old man suffered a brain bleed with traumatic brain injury along with many other injuries as a result of the crash.
Patrol investigators determined the crash was entirely the result of Flategraff’s driving demeanor. He admitted to investigators that the roads were bad, admitted the road south of Owatonna had ice in both lanes and acknowledged he’d been passing traffic traveling slower than he preferred.
The patrol investigator concluded, “Everyone but Flategraff clearly recognized the threat ahead. Everyone but Flategraff slowed their vehicles. Had Flategraff’s attention been focused on his surrounds, current road conditions and he’d of driven at a speed with which he could have safely stopped his semi, then this crash would never have happened.”
The maximum sentence for the new escape from custody charge is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
He is currently locked up in the Steele County Detention Center on $50,000 bail.