An inmate making an appearance at the Wadena County Courthouse Monday, Oct. 28, escaped custody just before 3 p.m. and remained on the loose as of 8:30 p.m.
The inmate, Ryan Paul Petro, was last seen heading north of the courthouse near the area of Colfax Ave. Dispatchers noted Petro was, at the time, wearing an orange shirt, tan pants and remained in handcuffs. His shoes were left at the jail.
Several 911 callers reported seeing the inmate leaving the area of the courthouse. Law enforcement could be seen searching areas where Petro may have been or may be heading to. The last reported sighting was off of Leaf River Road, near Pete's Nursery, just after 4 p.m. An area on the north edge of Wadena was heavily searched by the Wadena County K- 9 Unit, Todd County Drone, State Patrol Helicopter, Otter Tail County Drone and numerous law enforcement personnel due to a tip that Petro was observed in that area.
According to the latest release from Wadena County Sheriff's Office, law enforcement are still actively searching for Petro and are following up on all reported information and sightings.
Officers ask the community to lock your vehicles, residence, as well as any outbuildings and report any suspicious activity.
Petro, 34, has been in custody since Sept. 28, 2019, for misdemeanor obstructing legal process, misdemeanor disorderly conduct, misdemeanor damage to property, misdemeanor fleeing on foot and felony conditions of release- first degree burglary.
Petro is considered dangerous, according to a Wadena County Sheriff's Office news release. He was last seen in the area of Colfax Ave SE. The release also states that he should not be approached. If located call 911 immediately.
School lock down
The Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School was put on a soft lock down at about 3 p.m. shortly after the search started for Petro. School Superintendent Lee Westrum said the lock down involved locking of all exterior doors and classroom doors. He said that type of lock down is used when there is a potential threat.
Officers were dispatched to M State College at one point to a report of someone matching the description of Petro. It was a false alarm, but the elementary was given the OK to release students and open the school at that point. Students were delayed from release by about 10 minutes, Westrum said.
Westrum said the timing was difficult to prepare for as buses were preparing to load and parents were arriving at the school as the lock down started.
"It brings to light that you don't practice drills as buses are rolling up," Westrum said.
With the inmate still handcuffed, Westrum said the school was not given indication that the inmate posed an imminent threat to anybody.