YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Struthers police are looking for a woman who they say overtook a cruiser and took off in it Wednesday evening.
A little after 5 p.m., Michelle Russell was on her way home from work when she spotted a Struthers police cruiser ahead of her at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“The road was blocked, nobody wanted to go around and we realized he was struggling,” she said.
To her surprise, the officer — Khalid Abu-Ghannam — was fighting with one of the two female prisoners he was taking to the Mahoning County Jail.
“He realized that she had slipped one of her cuffs,” said Struthers Police Chief Tim Roddy.
Roddy said in an instant, the prisoner — identified as Tara Oder, of Youngstown — was climbing through a one-foot-wide partition separating the front and back seats in the cruiser.
“She grabbed the wheel of the cruiser — and he was driving — with one hand and then with the other hand, she was grabbing for his gun.”
Roddy said somehow, the officer managed to stop the cruiser and jump out, away from Oder’s grasp.
“The whole time, he was ordering her to stop.”
But Oder was now behind the wheel. The other prisoner — Linda Bennett, of Struthers — was still locked up in the back.
“Started revving the engine before it was even in gear, and then pulled it in gear and took off up Belmont,” Roddy said.
Oder let Linda Bennett out of the cruiser before she took off in it, according to police.
“Slammed on the gas and the officer rolled three times,” Russell said.
The officer was not hurt.
A few minutes later, the stolen cruiser was found abandoned near the leasing office for the Villages at Arlington Heights.
Witnesses told police they saw both women board a WRTA bus in front of the new Rescue Mission and disappear.
Roddy said both prisoners only had minor charges against them. He said no one expected this.
“Hindsight’s 20/20 but nothing led us to elevate our security.”
He admitted that’s something he’ll be reviewing now as police continue looking for both women.
Those with information on the women should call police.