ASHLAND — The inmate who fled Friday from the Interstate 71 rest area near West Salem was captured about 13 miles away in Ashland on Sunday morning after a tip from a store worker.

Said El-Khatib, 33, was taken into custody about 6 a.m. after a short foot pursuit by police officers near a Motel 6, located near the I-71 and U.S 250 interchange, Lt. Stephanie Norman of the State Highway Patrol said during a Sunday morning news conference.

He’s being held in the Ashland County Jail on a warrant from a 2014 misdemeanor theft charge in Ashland.

El-Khatib, who was being transported by a private extradition service, escaped during a restroom break at the southbound rest area at mile marker 197 outside of West Salem about 9 a.m. Friday. He was last seen fleeing south on foot with handcuffs. He was not wearing the cuffs when captured.

About 5 Sunday morning, an employee from the GOASIS store in Ashland called 911 reporting a suspicious person matching El-Khatib’s description had been spotted walking behind the store wearing glasses, a white T-shirt, tan pants and covered in dirt.

Officers responded to the GOASIS but the suspect had fled on foot.

Officers from the State Highway Patrol, Ashland Sheriff’s Office and Ashland police searched the area. One of the officers stopped at the nearby Motel 6 on County Road 1575, where a man in the parking lot indicated a person fitting El-Khatib’s description was sitting in the lobby.

When El-Khatib saw the officers, he fled but officers captured him shortly in a nearby field, Norman said.

The GOASIS employee who called 911 declined to speak with reporters.

Investigators from the U.S. Marshals Service and the State Highway Patrol plan to interview him and will release more details when they become available, said U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott from the Northern District of Ohio.

El-Khatib was being transported Friday from a New York prison to face charges in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, after being arrested for a theft charge.

The Wooster post of the State Highway Patrol received the initial 911 call Friday evening, according to Norman. Officers dispatched to the rest area took statements from the transport employee, who indicated the suspect fled south.

An immediate search of the area was conducted but later called off at 1 a.m. The State Highway Patrol contacted its aviation unit for aerial support and the K-9 unit from the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office also participated, along with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

The patrol’s aviation unit was called out again on Saturday morning. Officers from the various law enforcement agencies scoured the area southwest of the rest area for much of Saturday but to no avail.

In addition to the 2014 misdemeanor theft charge in Ashland, El-Khatib was picked up earlier on an unauthorized use of a vehicle charge in Medina County.

 

Reporter Emily Morgan can be reached at 330-287-1632 or emorgan@the-daily-record.com.