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Escaped inmate after jailhouse fight in Bemidji may have received help, search area expanding

Keanu Joseph Major

BEMIDJI, Minn.—Police believe an inmate who escaped their custody late last week may have received help in his efforts to elude them.

Keanu Joseph Major, 25, was last seen exiting a vehicle near Lake George, about 20 miles south of Bemidji, at about 11 a.m. Friday after he fled the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center in the wee hours that morning following a jailhouse fight Thursday night. Police searched the area around the hospital but did not find Major, who's described as an American Indian male, 5'10", 195 with black hair and facial hair and hazel eyes. He has a neck tattoo that says "Victoria."

"We do know that he has received help," said Ernie Beitel, chief deputy at the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office. Beitel declined to elaborate on the nature or extent of that help. "Anybody that we're dealing with is a potential suspect in helping him. We're really, really working hard and we've got a lot of information we're dealing with. We've got a lot of people working on it and I think that it won't be long before we have him back in custody."

Sheriff's Department staff said authorities have exhausted their Lake George-area leads and have expanded their search beyond it as they uncover new ones.

"We haven't ruled out anything," Sheriff Phil Hodapp said, adding that Major hasn't been seen since Lake George and police are unsure which direction he's headed or where he might ultimately try to go.

"Our search right now is right here in Minnesota, but as we develop information I wouldn't be surprised if it moves outside," Beitel said. "It all depends on if the information we develop moves us outside the state or not."

Police said Major was also seen in northwest Bemidji in since-recovered leg shackles and a waist belt after he escaped the hospital but before he was spotted around Lake George.

Hodapp said the Park Rapids, Menahga, and Sebeka police departments are assisting their search, as well as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office, and the Minnesota State Patrol. Authorities used planes to search for Major on Friday, but said they didn't plan to on Monday because they didn't have a specific area to search.

Police say the escapee is dangerous and advised the public not to attempt to make contact with him, but call 911 immediately if you have seen him or know his location.

Major was initially arrested June 29 after he allegedly ran over another man with his car in response to being stabbed. He was charged with second-degree assault and with failing to stop after a traffic collision.

He is scheduled to appear in court Monday, Aug. 7.

Anyone with information on Major's whereabouts should call the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office at (218) 732-3111 or 911.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

(218) 333-9798