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Prisoner’s escape during exam is probed

He’s accused of carjacking during 4 hours of freedom

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The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office is conducting an internal investigation to figure out how a prisoner escaped during a medical examination.

The prisoner, Robert Berger, 33, kept police hopping for more than four hours. Salt Lake City and County officers spent the greater part of Wednesday afternoon looking for the car they believe Berger hijacked, a light blue 2000 Nissan Maxima with Nevada license plates. A woman who was in the car at the time it disappeared was also allegedly kidnapped. Police ultimately found Berger and the woman outside the car, walking in Sugarhouse Park. Berger was surrounded and tackled by police.

"Our suspicion is he set up a meeting there with someone who was going to pick him up. That's what we suspect, but we don't know for sure yet," Salt Lake County Sheriff Lt. Jim Potter said.

On Wednesday morning, a witness saw a man in yellow pants drive onto 100 South from a parking lot with a woman in the car. The woman was soon identified as Vicky Reinken, 49, Provo. She had been a backseat passenger of a car driven by her son and his fiancee, who were visiting her from Las Vegas, Nev. The son and his fiancee left her in the car while they ran an errand, and she apparently was still in the vehicle when it was taken by Berger.

"Our first concern was her safety," Salt Lake County Sheriff Arron Kennard said.

Berger allegedly escaped from a doctor's office located on South Temple, Kennard said. Berger had been taken to the office for an X-ray of his hand.

The room where the X-ray equipment was located had two doors, Potter said. A corrections officer accompanying Berger stepped behind one door while the X-ray was taken to avoid radiation exposure. "He (Berger) went out the other door," Potter said.

Though one hand was free for the examination, Berger's other hand was handcuffed and the handcuffs were attached to a belly chain, Potter said. "Somehow he got out of all of that."

An internal administrative investigation will be conducted over the next few days, and "hopefully, he'll tell us, for example, how he was able to get out of the shackles. We're interested in how he did that, obviously," Potter said.

"I'm looking at (this) very seriously — how the situation was compromised," Kennard said.

Police took the suspect back into custody and the woman to the police station for questioning, Kennard said.

Reinken was not physically injured. "Of course, she was quite scared and quite upset. That has to be expected," Potter said.

Berger was serving time in Salt Lake County jail for auto theft and a no-bail warrant, Kennard said.


Contributing: Doug Smeath@desnews.com ; lhancock@desnews.com