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Pasco deputy resigns in wake of prisoner's escape at McDonald's drive-through

PORT RICHEY — Deputy Matthew Kadel was taking a man to jail the morning of July 19 when he decided to grab some food. It was 9 a.m. and he'd been working since 5. He was hungry and thirsty and had at least a 20-minute drive ahead of him.

As Kadel, 45, pulled into the McDonald's drive-through and placed his order, the man in the back seat — Richard Zukoski, 21, arrested on auto burglary and theft charges — used his own handcuff key to free himself. He took off through the parking lot off U.S. 19, just south of State Road 52.

A surveillance video from the McDonald's, released this week as the Pasco County Sheriff's Office wrapped up its investigation, shows Kadel running after Zukoski.

It also shows Kadel coming back, without his prisoner, to retrieve his food from the drive-through window.

Kadel, who has worked for the Sheriff's Office since 1994, submitted his resignation on Monday after an internal affairs investigation found he violated an inmate transport rule: Deputies are to stop only for emergencies.

Spokesman Kevin Doll said if a deputy needs to stop – for food or to use the bathroom, for example – he or she needs to get a supervisor's permission. Kadel did not, according to the investigation documents.

"I don't make it a habit of stopping," Kadel later told investigators, according to a report. "I mean, it's probably the one and only time."

But it was the third time someone escaped on his watch, according to sheriff's reports.

In 2005, Kadel arrested Lawrence Bloom, then 47, on domestic battery charges, then took him to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point for treatment. Bloom escaped from the hospital after Kadel left him inside unattended, without handcuffs.

Kadel was suspended for five days without pay.

In 1999, Kadel was supposed to be watching Michael Webster, a 20-year-old arrested on two counts of armed robbery, as detectives took turns interviewing him and two other suspects. But Webster slipped away and was caught after a jogger saw him wading through a pond, still wearing handcuffs.

A document from the Professional Standards Unit concluded that "Dep. Kadel abandoned his responsibility by assuming someone other than himself was going to watch Mr. Webster."

In all three escapes — including the latest incident at McDonald's — deputies swarmed the area and quickly found the suspects.

Kadel has been reprimanded on previous occasions for failing to follow orders, unauthorized use of property and equipment, inaccurate statements, insubordination and tardiness.

Kadel also had many letters of appreciation and recognition in his file. He received the sheriff's Medal of Valor Award in 2001 for pulling a suicidal man out of a burning house. In 2008, after seeing a needy family at a Denny's restaurant, Kadel got the family medical care, prescriptions and toys. He received the sheriff's Quarterly Incentive Award.

The McDonald's incident began in the predawn hours of July 19, when Kadel responded to the Gulf Highlands neighborhood in Port Richey for a burglary complaint.

Boxes of power tools and lawn equipment had been stolen from a resident's truck. Kadel found them on Zukoski's porch.

As Kadel headed inside to make an arrest, Zukoski pocketed a handcuff key from a set he and his girlfriend bought a few years back.

"I was thinking, 'I want to get home and see my mom,' " Zukoski told the Times in a jailhouse interview in July. "I didn't want to go to prison."

As the deputy went through the McDonald's drive-through, Zukoski began to unlock his handcuffs. Then he asked the deputy to roll down the back window so he could spit. Instead, Zukoski reached out, opened the door and ran.

Documents from the investigation state Zukoski had been patted down by Kadel and at least one other deputy before being put in the cruiser. No one found the handcuff key, which was hidden in a small pouch in his gym shorts. He wore no shirt.

Kadel's resignation letter does not mention the July 19 incident, but confirms he will receive pay for his unused vacation time and will be eligible to file for unemployment compensation.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

See it for yourself

See video of the prisoner's escape in the McDonald's drive-through lane at links.tampabay.com.

Pasco deputy resigns in wake of prisoner's escape at McDonald's drive-through 12/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 11:01pm]
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