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SUSPECT ESCAPES IN W.V.

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A fugitive eluded West Valley police Friday after he escaped from a Salt Lake County constable at 3rd Circuit Court.

The fugitive, Travis Aaron John-son, 26, had been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Thursday for investigation of issuing bad checks, sex solicitation and driving on a suspended license.He was among a group of prisoners transported from jail to the West Valley court complex Friday about 12:30 p.m. and was discovered missing at the building during a head count.

Late Friday, Johnson had not been found.

Police believe he escaped the complex, 3600 S. Constitution Blvd. (2700 West), and ran south to nearby Market Street (2820 West), where he asked 19-year-old Darren Pinkerton for a ride.

"I just woke up and came out (to the car) to get my wallet," Pinkerton said. "He didn't look like the kind of guy I wanted to give a ride to."

By that time, Johnson had pulled the top of his orange jumpsuit down around his shackled wrists. Pinkerton turned away and said when he looked back, the fugitive was gone.

He thought Johnson had been picked up by a passing van. Instead, the man fled via a gate between two houses and made his way through the neighborhood undetected.

"He was actually pretty calm," Pinkerton said. On Johnson's heels was a jail transport official. "He's like - `Did you see a prisoner?' " he said.

Scores of police followed on foot, in patrol cars and, eventually, with a helicopter and K-9 unit. They scoured the neighborhoods throughout the afternoon and evening to no avail.

Johnson, a West Valley resident, is described as 6 feet tall, 170 pounds, with light brown hair and a moustache. Initially, he was wearing the orange jail uniform and had a cast on his right arm, West Valley police Sgt. Lynn Hanson said. Searchers later found his orange clothing and wrist shackles in a bundle on a neighboring street.

Several residents reported seeing a man of similar description riding a maroon-colored mountain bike and wearing a white headband and denim shorts.