WYANDOTTE – A manhunt by land, air, and water ended after an all-day search on Friday. A fugitive on the run from law enforcement, Robert Gene Bailey, 32, of Jay, was surrounded by law enforcement on a small island at Twin Bridges State Park for nearly 10 hours before being apprehended nearby.
Bailey was able to leave the swampy island at some point by swimming and then made his way on foot toward Wyandotte where he was taken into custody.
Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd said Bailey managed to make his way back to land from the north side of an island in the Spring River at Twin Bridges State Park where he had fled to earlier in the pursuit.
A resident that lived in the area called dispatch to tell them they spotted a suspicious man with no shirt at 640 Road, Wyandotte Nation Police Chief Ken Murphy said.
"I think actually the original call said he was on their porch, " he said. " Of course was plenty of law enforcement in the vicinity and we responded right away. We more or less ran him into the corner there, and he had no way out."
Murphy said it is not clear how Bailey escaped notice when leaving the island, but said he might have swum back across later in the day when the helicopter was called back.
"He was out there for hours, and there's no ground there. The island was covered with water, and there's no solid ground there. He could have got up in a tree I guess and rested," Murphy said. "They took a chainsaw and tried to cut their way in there and made it 10 or 15 feet, but the vegetation was just so thick they couldn't go any further, and even that far in the water was still 7 or 8 feet deep."
Bailey was captured just west of the Dollar General Store in Wyandotte at approximately 4:20 p.m., with the direct apprehension being made by several law enforcement officers.
Bailey was apparently in good shape after the ordeal and law enforcement said he was running and they had to chase him down to catch him, according to Floyd. The sheriff said Bailey made little resistance once reached.
“It was a joint effort, and I want to thank everyone involved. That’s what it takes to have a good conclusion,” Floyd said. “I hope I never have to deal with that island again.”
The manhunt started Friday morning after casino security spotted Bailey.
Bailey, the suspect in a prior theft of a tip jar at the Wyandotte Nation Riverbend Casino and wanted felon, ran from police on foot into a wooded area after being spotted by security at the casino a little before 7 a.m. on Friday morning, according to Murphy.
“Detective Steve Johnson went to the casino and attempted to make contact with the individual identified as Robert Bailey in the parking lot, “ Murphy said on Friday. “Mr. Bailey fled on foot north into the wooded area across the road from the casino. We called in additional assistance and set up a search parameter, and OHP (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) launched their helicopter. He was located in a wooded area on the east side of Spring River by Ottawa County deputies and fled by swimming into the river and swam over to an island.”
The island is located 250 to 300 yards south of Highway 60 at the Spring River Bridge.
“That island is flooded and covered with brush and heavy vegetation, so we weren’t able to access the island,” Murphy said. The manhunt transitioned somewhat to a rescue because the OHP helicopter crew advised law enforcement when they last saw Bailey he was entering the brush at the island and he appeared to be struggling.
“We lost sight at that point and hadn’t seen him since,” Murphy said,
Murphy said the search then turned to a dual search of both an armed manhunt search and rescue mission to find Bailey.
“If he's in distress we certainly want to get him out of there in good shape,” Murphy said Friday during the search efforts. “We just haven't seen him for awhile.”
Search and rescue boats converged to the area as well as law enforcement personnel from across the county including the Wyandotte Nation Police, Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, GRDA, Eastern Shawnee Police, Fairland, Miami Nation, Quapaw Marshals and Quapaw Fire/EMS and Quapaw Tribe Fire and EMS are also on scene assisting.
“We had several boats and aircraft in the air as well,” Murphy said. “We requested boats when he got near the water and were able to set up and had air support.”
Law enforcement was fairly confident at the time Bailey was still on the island when he was spotted nearby in Wyandotte later in the afternoon around 4 p.m.
Bailey has warrants for his arrest from Delaware County District Court for attempting to elude police officers and other felony charges.
According to the Grove Police Department's incident report from November 30, 2016, Bailey fled from police after an off-duty deputy spotted him at a Grove carwash. Bailey had felony warrants out at that time for August 2013 charges for furnishing alcohol to a minor, transporting an open container of beer, and driving while suspended.
When Grove police attempted to stop Bailey that night, he was able to maneuver around two patrol cars, entered a lengthy high-speed chase at over 100 miles per hour covering three states, ran through a roadblock nearly striking a deputy head on and eventually made a getaway.
The August 2013 charges came after Grove Police were advised of a drunk driver in the Grove McDonald's parking lot with his vehicle parked sideways in the drive-thru lane smoking from under the hood.
The car was occupied by two males. Bailey, the driver, admitted he had been drinking. The police report describes Bailey as wearing a swimsuit and hat, and having slurred speech, bloodshot, watery eyes and a container of beer in the cupholder, and being unsteady on his feet. He later tested at 0.22 BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) with a Breathalyzer test, according to the police report. The legal limit in Oklahoma and around the country for drivers over the age of 21 is .08. A 19-year-old passenger was also arrested for public intoxication.
For violations of probation, on May 1, 2015, District Attorney Kenny Wright filed a motion to accelerate Bailey's deferred judgment received for the August 2013 charges for two counts with a total of six years to be served and placing him under probation conditions and imposing the full sentence.
Delaware County District Court Judge Alicia Littlefield set a total of $200,000 bonds for Bailey for those charges. Bailey was taken to Delaware County according to Murphy to face his charges there.
Murphy said the manhunt ensued because of Bailey's warrants and the fact that he had run from law enforcement before endangering life and property.
"That was the whole reason for implementing a manhunt. It wasn't because of the minor incident," he said.
Murphy was pleased with the outcome and teamwork of the law enforcement and first responders who came to assist.
"I was really impressed at the teamwork," Murphy said. "I wasn't surprised because we work well together anyway. We got the perimeter set up pretty quickly. Everybody involved did an exceptional job. It's great to work with that many professionals that know how to work as a team."
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.