A manhunt continues for Iolan Aaron C. Hutton, wanted in connection with an armed robbery in Iola Wednesday morning.
A man matching the description of Hutton, 35, was last spotted late Wednesday floating down the Neosho River, grasping onto a log, where he fled after being chased by officers through a residential neighborhood in Humboldt.
All Chanute USD 413 schools were ordered locked down at 8 o’clock this morning after a person matching Hutton’s description was spotted near the Lincoln Early Learning Center, in the 1000 block of West Main Street. An announcement that the lockdown was lifted came at about 10:30.
No other information was available at press time.
THE TROUBLE started shortly before 11:30 a.m., when a masked man matching Hutton’s description robbed at gunpoint an undetermined amount of cash from Advance America, a payday loan business at 523 N. State St. He then took off with the employee’s vehicle, a dark gray Subaru Forester.
Officers initially went north of town, after somebody spotted a vehicle resembling the Subaru’s description.
However, that search was quickly abandoned when Hutton was seen shortly after noon, going door-to-door in Humboldt, attempting to enter a number of houses.
The suspect then took off when spotted by law enforcement. He was chased about two blocks to the banks of the Neosho River, where he remained hidden for a short while, before being seen jumping into the water.
The suspect tossed a backpack onto the river bank as he jumped into the water, Sheriff Bryan Murphy noted.
The backpack contained cash, a mask and a gun.
From there, officers kept tabs on the low-speed chase, aided overhead by a Kansas Highway Patrol helicopter.
Meanwhile, officers from Iola, Allen County, Humboldt, Neosho County, Chanute, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and KHP followed along on both sides of the river, a task easier said than done, noted Iola Police Chief Jared Warner.
Thick brush along the muddy, rocky banks, made traversing the route a chore.
K-9 units from Chanute and KHP also were on hand, Warner noted.
The suspect was heard on multiple occasions asking officers to “just shoot me,” according to police radio chatter.
Officers, obviously, ignored the request.
“Our goal all along is to preserve life,” Warner said.
The chase ended late in the afternoon, when the helicopter was running low on fuel.
A swift water rescue team was dispatched from Chanute, but could not reach the suspect before the helicopter left and officials had lost sight of him.
“It just happened to be where we couldn’t see him from the shore,” Warner noted. “It was hard enough finding a place to get the boat into the water.”
The search continued for some time after as officers tried to find places where the suspect may have exited the water. They found none.
By then, search dogs had become exhausted as well, Warner noted.
“When you lose your resources, you have to end the search,” Warner said. “It can be frustrating to have eyes on him for so long, but no possible way to get in the water to get him.”
Sheriff’s deputies and troopers maintained a heavier-than-normal presence throughout the area into the night on patrol, in case the suspect popped back into sight.
Meanwhile, they are urging all residents to keep their homes, cars, garages and outbuildings locked and secure.
Murphy said another search of the river may commence soon, with side-tracking sonar “in case he couldn’t get out of the water.”
“We want him to have his day in court,” Warner said.
IOLA SCHOOLS also were briefly locked down because of the potential threat. Shortly after the initial call, Iola police asked USD 257 administrators to lock down all schools. After about an hour, the lockdown was lifted.
Superintendent Stacey Fager said the event was a precaution, but was made slightly more difficult because it occurred during the lunch hour at Iola High School, where the cafeteria is located in another building. Staff had to get creative to make sure all students had access to meals, he said. Otherwise, there were no reported issues from the incident.
HUTTON is 5-9, about 145 pounds, and was last spotted wearing boxer shorts and black socks. He was clothed when he jumped in the water, but slowly disrobed as he tired, Murphy said.
Officers also remain on the lookout for the Advance America employee’s missing vehicle.
The Subaru has a license tag 987 KZS.
Hutton faces other charges in Allen County District Court. He was charged with burglary of a non-dwelling and felony theft, for suspicion of stealing copper tubing and other equipment from a pair of local businesses in recent months; and for suspected possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in a separate incident.
While officers recovered a firearm, they said residents should still consider the suspect armed and dangerous. They should not approach him, but instead should call 911. Anyone with information regarding Huttons’ whereabouts is encouraged to call 365-4960 or 365-1400.