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Runaway litterer

The Hays Police Department says it has some lessons to learn after a 20-year-old man escaped from custody over the weekend.

While that might be true, it would appear the early Sunday morning incident could prove to be a learning opportunity for local residents as well.

A Hays officer had made a traffic stop at 4 a.m. Sunday. During his discussion with two teenaged girls in the car, the officer discovered they had left one of their friends at a local motel with the 20-year-old. The officer went to the motel and discovered Matthew Kloke had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Kloke was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the patrol car while the officer went back into the motel to check on the girl.

That's when an already-late night got a lot longer. The man was able to free himself from the cuffs, roll down the window and open the door from the outside. Once loose, Kloke apparently stole a car, led Hoisington police on a high-speed chase once they spotted him, and crashed the vehicle in Great Bend before being locked up.

As HPD Chief Don Scheibler said, "there were mistakes made." The chief is conducting a complete review of the incident to ensure it won't be repeated. Likely one of the first items to remember is that even the most unlikely of suspects could flee if provided the opportunity. The outstanding warrant was for littering, something we would have likened with a rather harmless individual.

Scheibler correctly pointed out his department is fortunate it can learn from an incident in which nobody was hurt. Kloke likely will be charged with theft of a motor vehicle, escape from custody and interference with a police officer.

The public also is fortunate it can learn lessons without anybody being hurt in the process.

First and foremost is the fact three teenage girls, 15 to 17, were out and about at that hour of night. While curfews might be getting later, 4 a.m. appears to be stretching the boundaries of safety. If you have minors under your care, this could be a good time to discuss behavioral issues in general.

The other concern is that of leaving a running car unattended. There is a sense of security living in a community of this size. Still, criminal acts do occur on occasion. Getting out of one's vehicle to drop somebody off or run into a store, particularly when it's cold outside, there is the temptation to leave the car on. The same with warming your vehicle up before you go to work. In fact, it's not hard to imagine doing so without giving it a second thought.

Well, here's the second thought. You never know when somebody running from the law might find your warmed-up and ready-to-go car the exact form of transportation they were wishing they had. Given HPD's commitment to correcting itself, that particular scenario might not happen again. But joy-riding certainly hasn't disappeared from society yet.

Bottom line, we are pleased nobody was hurt in the unusual incident. But if there is anything any of us can learn from it, we should.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net