Arlington Heights man spotted prisoner hiding in his garage
Before Michael Neu left work Wednesday afternoon, he checked Facebook and saw a story about a prisoner who authorities say had escaped the Rolling Meadows courthouse, just down the street from his home.
Less than an hour later, the prisoner, Jonathan J. Scott, would be recaptured by Cook County sheriff's deputies in Neu's front yard after the Arlington Heights man caught him trying to hide in his garage.
Scott, 24, had been in custody on drug-related charges, obstructing justice and resisting arrest, but Wednesday he was in court on an Elk Grove Village charge of violating an order of protection. Cook County Judge Samuel J. Betar III had just set Scott's bail at $30,000. After the hearing, Scott was handcuffed to a table in a holding room, but he somehow managed to get out of the handcuffs and walk out the courthouse's front door around 2 p.m., authorities say.
Authorities knew right away that he was missing, said sheriff's spokeswoman Sophia Ansari, but the department isn't yet saying how it happened.
"It's safe to say how this whole thing happened is being looked at," Ansari said.
Scott's disappearance launched a manhunt of the surrounding area by officers from Elk Grove Village, Rolling Meadows, Arlington Heights, Palatine and Cook County. Squad cars raced up and down nearby residential streets and helicopters were in the air while police combed the neighborhoods with canine units.
Arlington Heights police sent a robocall to some residents around 4:20 p.m. saying Scott had last been seen on the 600 block of South Salem Avenue.
That's just around the corner from Neu, 42, who lives on Kaspar Avenue just north of Northwest Highway.
As he drove through his neighborhood after work, Neu saw police searching garages and homes nearby, but his street was quiet.
He pulled into his detached garage and went inside. Neu didn't realize he had forgotten to close his garage door, but knowing there was a search going on, he went out to his backyard to check around his swimming pool and make sure no one was there. All was clear.
He went to take his dog for a quick walk and ran into more police. They told him Scott had been in the area, he had just crashed a bicycle nearby and he had taken off on foot.
Neu decided he should head home while the police were searching. His parents live right next door and didn't get a robocall, so they weren't sure what all the activity was about.
Once Neu got inside his home, Neu looked out the window and saw something strange going on with his wife's car.
"The trunk was open, then it was closed, then it opened again. It was just bobbing up and down," he said.
Someone had gotten inside and was trying to hide in the trunk but couldn't get the door to close, Neu said.
Neu ran outside and the police were checking a house right next door. He yelled to them.
Police swarmed on Scott, who officials said was not armed. Neu said the prisoner quickly lay down and surrendered without resistance while more than 20 officers made sure the arrest went smoothly.
"I felt completely safe. There were police everywhere," Neu said. "The police did a great job."
Jeff Hartwig, who works at the Daily Herald and was visiting his mother's home on the same block in Arlington Heights, realized something was going on when he heard helicopters circling overhead.
He went for a walk around the block and saw Neu wave the police officers over.
"The guy didn't put up a fuss at all," he said of the prisoner. "Thankfully, it was all pretty uneventful."
Neu said it helped that his wife and children weren't home at the time, so he didn't have to worry about them.
"My kids play in the garage sometimes. He could have taken them hostage," Neu said. "Or what if he was still in the car when my wife got in it in the morning? You just never know."
It was a few minutes of excitement Neu says could have ended very differently.
"If I had closed my garage door without seeing him in the trunk, he could have just hung out there all night and they wouldn't have found him," Neu said. "That's what bothers me. The courthouse needs to do a better job of holding on to these guys."
By 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Scott was back in custody. Officials say he will likely face additional charges related to his escape.
• Daily Herald staff writers Christopher Placek and Barbara Vitello contributed to this report.