ROLLA — Police said Thursday that they captured a man who tried breaking into an Army base and fired on police during a high-speed chase before entering and leaving a university building where classes were in session.
Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse said officers took Cody N. Willcoxson of South West City into custody Thursday afternoon, hours after they say he tried sneaking into nearby Fort Leonard Wood using a fake ID.
Willcoxson was released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 2008 after serving about 3½ years for burglary, escaping from jail and other felonies.
Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Mike Warren said a man tried entering the base through its west gate Thursday morning but was told to leave by a security guard, who determined the man's identification card didn't look legitimate. Instead of leaving, the driver accelerated rapidly and drove through the gate, then led military police on a chase that ended when he drove back out through the front gate and the St. Robert Police Department began the pursuit, he said.
St. Robert Police Chief Curtis Curenton said the officers had been on Interstate 44 for only a couple miles when the driver began firing shots from what appeared to be an AK-47. Curenton said he followed the gunman about 32 miles to Rolla when his driver's-side mirror was hit with one round and his engine compartment was hit by another.
Officers put "stop sticks" on the road and punctured a tire before the driver reached Rolla. He eventually had to ditch the vehicle and fled on foot before stealing another vehicle and heading toward the interstate, according to the sheriff's department website.
Just before 9 a.m. the Missouri University of Science and Technology received a report of a gunman entering McNutt Hall, which houses the school's Department of Mining and Nuclear Engineering. There were no classes in session in the building at the time. A university spokeswoman said the gunman was seen leaving the campus.
Campus police issued an alert at 8:50 telling those on campus to remain indoors and everyone else to stay away. The suspect left campus without firing a shot, a campus police official said.
Willcoxson was among nine inmates who attacked a jailer and fled on foot from the Delaware County Jail in Oklahoma. He had escaped twice previously, and authorities suspected him of masterminding the jail break.
During the escape, a prisoner attacked the jailer, stole his keys, kicked in the door to the sheriff's office and stole a .22-caliber rifle before all nine slipped out the side door of the courthouse, the Tulsa World reported at the time.
Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth and Bill Draper contributed this report from Kansas City.