NEW YORK (WABC) -- A prisoner being deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents escaped their custody at JFK Airport, catching a taxi to freedom.
Mohamadou Lamine Mbacke, 31, who was being deported to Senegal on a prior weapons arrest, apparently ran away from the agents in Terminal 4, at Gate B23, around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Sources say the officers had gotten him something to eat as they waited for his flight to Dakar. They turned their backs for a split second, and he was gone.
They searched the terminal themselves, showing airport workers at duty free shops and newsstands Mbacke's picture. It wasn't until nearly two hours later, when the flight was about to depart, that they finally notified local authorities.
PAPD immediately flooded the terminal with officers and opened a command post, but it was far too late.
Mbacke was caught on surveillance video fleeing the airport in a yellow cab during that time.
He was last seen wearing a black or purple shirt, jeans and sneakers. He is 6-foot-3 and approximately 190 pounds.
Mbacke had flown with the agents from Detroit and was awaiting a connecting flight. He served state prison time in Michigan for gun possession and was ordered deported after his release, but it appears ICE didn't carry out that order until Tuesday.
Port Authority police released a statement saying, "An individual being transported by federal immigration officials at JFK Airport last night eluded custody during transfer to a connecting flight. A check of video cameras by authorities showed the individual left the airport in a cab. Federal authorities would know if he is still at large. He was not taken into custody in the airport by the Port Authority Police Department."
ICE released information about the suspect saying, "Mbacke entered the country lawfully in 2005 before violating the terms of his status. He was ordered deported in September 2015 by an immigration judge. Mbacke has previous criminal convictions for multiple weapons and firearms offenses. ICE along with state, federal and local authorities are currently actively seeking his whereabouts. Members of the public should not to attempt to apprehend him and instead immediately contact authorities."
Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, also issued a statement, saying, "The delay in notifying the Port Authority Police Department about the prisoner's escape is yet another example of the lack of coordinated communications between all law enforcement agencies at our nation's airports. The Port Authority PBA and its national affiliate, the American Alliance of Airport Police Officers, have been calling for coordinated, integrated communications between law enforcement agencies along with seamless video surveillance systems with law enforcement access. This should include a requirement that all law enforcement agencies must notify airport police commands when prisoners are being transported through airports and in terminals. Though these recommendations have not been put into effect, the public can be sure that Port Authority Police Officers will always strive to work effectively with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners."
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Prisoner being deported escapes ICE agents at JFK Airport