Feds have robbery suspect

LIHUE — A man who led police on an eight-hour manhunt after escaping from jail and robbing a bank is now in federal custody.

Walter Mills was arrested near Kokee Lodge on Friday and was picked up by federal agents the next day, said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.

He is expected to be charged on multiple offenses, including robbery, kidnapping and unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle.

The investigation into how Mills escaped from the Kauai Community Correctional Center on Thursday night is ongoing, said Shelley Nobriga, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman.

According to a release from DPS, Mills was reported missing about 8 p.m. during a headcount.

KCCC security officers conduct two routine headcounts per shift. Officers also conduct “irregular” headcounts throughout their shift. Mills was discovered missing during an irregular headcount, Nobriga said.

When Mills was discovered missing, KCCC followed a chain of command of notifying the correct agencies of Mills’ escape, including the Kauai Police Department, state sheriffs and the DPS, which is standard protocol, Nobriga said.

If an inmate is found to be missing, protocol states that the chain of command be immediately followed. It is up to the DPS spokesman, Toni Schwartz, to notify the public, but when that information is disseminated to the public depends on what time the events occur, Nobriga said.

In Mills’ case, KPD patrol officers were notified of his escape about 8:30 p.m.

The DPS press release to KPD came in at 9:23 a.m. the next day, Blane said.

“The Department of Public Safety issues press releases regarding escapees, but for escapee situations that occur on the island of Kauai, I will forward the DPS press release to my media contacts as well as all county employees and post it to the county’s Facebook to help share the word,” she said.

About 8:30 a.m. Friday, Kauai police responded to a call about a robbery at First Hawaiian Bank in Lihue. It was during that preliminary investigation that police determined the escaped inmate from the night before was the suspect in the bank robbery.

Then, just before 10 a.m., officers responded to Kmart at Kukui Grove Center after a man reported someone matching Mills’ description brandished a weapon and stole his Ford pickup truck.

A short time later, Mills, 43, was reported to have left the pickup near Sudz Car Wash on Pahee Street in Lihue, and fled the area on foot.

Police say Mills then entered an empty county paratransit bus, brandished a weapon, and instructed the male bus driver to take him to Koloa Road.

He was eventually arrested by KPD officers in Kokee about 4 p.m. Police recovered a firearm at the scene, but it is unclear if Mills used it during the bank robbery, Blane said.

“But he did brandish a weapon during the carjacking at Kmart,” she said.

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