Shackled inmate escapes outside courthouse in Bellevue

BELLEVUE -- A shackled inmate escaped Friday after he was taken out of a jail van for escort into the Bellevue District Court and he ran off.

Police said they believe he might have run to a waiting getaway car.

Windell Downs, 21, was being transported to Bellevue District Court from King County Jail.

bellevue fugitiveBellevue police say Downs should be considered dangerous. He was being held in jail on a number of charges.

Downs and another inmate were inside a jail van outside the courthouse around 11:30 a.m. But before Downs could be escorted into court, he ran off.

In shackles, wearing a red jumpsuit, Downs still managed to get away. The only thing left at the scene was his jail slippers.

“He ran off in shackles, is that right? And he is still on the loose, that sounds like incompetence,” resident Daniel Heeder said.

Bellevue police say the officer transporting the inmates couldn’t chase after Downs because she had to watch the other, remaining inmate. By the time backup arrived, it was too late.  Police believe the inmate's girlfriend, Tanjanique Hillis, 20, was nearby in a getaway car.

“There has been some good testimony in regards to seeing her in the courthouse and out in the vehicle,” Bellevue police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate said.

Witnesses saw a four-door blue Crown Victoria. The license plate was AJW8923 but but there is a good chance the plate has been changed.  Police say Downs was scheduled in court for a suspended vehicle license on Friday but he was being held in jail for a number of other offenses, including robbery and several different theft charges.

“The ones who are willing to do anything to escape custody, they have nothing to lose and that is dangerous,” Heeder said.

Police say the couple is from the Renton area but as of Friday night still no word on whether anyone has spotted them.

Downs is 6-foot and weighs about 174 pounds. He has several tattoos on his neck and arms.

The support officer who was transporting the two inmates was by herself and she is not allowed to carry a gun.

Q13 FOX News asked Bellevue police if the officer followed protocol during the incident. The department said they will be looking into that and also into whether any security changes need to be made in the future.