FUGITIVE SMASHES INTO JAIL

February 24, 2002 11:00 pm
ARMORED VEHICLE USED IN MANHUNT: An armored Oregon State Police SWAT vehicle drives through John Day at daybreak Thursday before heading into the mountains in search of Willie Hinton. Hinton is suspected of killing his parents Feb. 17 in nearby Long Creek and shooting a police officer. Police arrested Hinton late Saturday night. (Photo by ROB KERR/Copyright 2002, The Bulletin, Bend).
ARMORED VEHICLE USED IN MANHUNT: An armored Oregon State Police SWAT vehicle drives through John Day at daybreak Thursday before heading into the mountains in search of Willie Hinton. Hinton is suspected of killing his parents Feb. 17 in nearby Long Creek and shooting a police officer. Police arrested Hinton late Saturday night. (Photo by ROB KERR/Copyright 2002, The Bulletin, Bend).

CANYON CITY, (AP) Grant County authorities plan to arraign Almeron Willie Hinton today, almost two days after the escaped fugitive smashed through the Grant County Jail in a stolen pickup.

Hinton was being held Sunday on multiple counts of attempted murder. The unemployed logger is accused of killing his parents and injuring a state police trooper in a shoot-out. Bail has been set at $5 million.

Late Saturday, Hinton reportedly sped up a handicapped ramp and crashed through the jails double doors. He then went down a hallway and slammed into a soda machine, before backing up and crashing the truck through another door on the side of the building, Sheriff Glenn Palmer said.

Hinton then parked in a nearby parking lot, got out and peered inside the jail to see what damage hed done, Palmer said. Oregon State Police troopers, tipped off by calls to a dispatcher, arrived almost immediately and arrested the 45-year-old Hinton without incident, Palmer said.

State Police said Hinton told them: Im the one you are all looking for.

Hinton was clean shaven and didnt appear to have been roughing it in the mountains while investigators searched a 14-square-mile area of snow-covered mountains, timberlands and sagebrush in an intense manhunt. He told investigators he had spent much of the week in some ranch outbuildings about 1 miles west of Mount Vernon while about two dozen searchers, aircraft and a bloodhound combed the nearby high country, said State Police spokesman Dan Durbin.

Deputies found an M1 rifle on the floor behind the drivers seat and a pistol on the front seat, Palmer said. The M1 is believed to be the weapon used in the killings, Palmer said.

The pickup apparently was stolen from the Ingles Butte Ranches, where Hinton once worked, Durbin said.

State Police said Sunday that Hinton would be arraigned within 36 hours of his arrest on charges of four counts of attempted aggravated murder and one charge of attempted murder for the wounding of the state policeman and shots fired at three Grant County deputies and a reserve deputy.

Durbin said acting Grant County District Attorney Brenda Rocklin would convene a grand jury within a few days to consider charges arising from the deaths of Hintons parents.

Hinton is accused of killing his parents, Al and Irene Hinton of Long Creek, on Feb. 17. Police say that after shooting his parents, Hinton drove his two sons to a rock pit about 38 miles from Mount Vernon, where he left them with his ex-wife, 41-year-old Cindy Hinton.

He then fled south and was met by Oregon State Police troopers and Grant County Sheriffs deputies. Police say Hinton drove his car straight at officers, firing at them out his drivers-side window with a .44-caliber Magnum handgun.

OSP Detective Michael Durr, 46, was hit in the right arm.

Hinton escaped, triggering the massive manhunt in rural Eastern Oregons Grant County. Relatives predicted that Hinton, a seasoned outdoorsman, would never be found.

Hinton ordered a Coke at a Dairy Queen drive-thru about a mile from the jail just before crashing his pickup into the facility, Palmer said. Hinton did not pay for the Coke, and employees called dispatchers after they recognized Hinton, Palmer said.

Hintons ex-wife, Cindy Hinton, was arrested Saturday morning for passing bad checks in neighboring Harney County, a probation violation, Palmer said. She was being held in Grant County Jail when Hinton drove through the doors.

The sheriff speculated that Hinton might have cracked under the strain of the economic downturn, which left him unemployed, hounded by bill collectors as he watched his familys small logging business go under.

People can only take so much before they crack, Palmer told The Oregonian. Im not going to make excuses for the man. Hes under investigation for a double homicide. But youve got to have compassion for these people who have fallen on hard times.