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Hostages get away from prisoner who escaped during fast-food break

December 5, 1997

OWATONNA, Minn. (AP) _ A prisoner who escaped from a van when a guard stopped for lunch held a couple hostage in their home overnight and kidnapped them in their car before they managed to flee today.

The search continued this morning for Homer Land, 40, convicted of a 1992 aggravated battery in Florida. He had driven off in the couple’s car after they escaped this morning, and it was later found abandoned a few miles away. He was believed to be armed with a knife.

The couple, whose names were not immediately released, were shaken but unhurt, Northfield Police Chief Ron Pieri said.

Land was one of 11 inmates in a prison transport van that stopped for lunch Thursday at a Burger King in Owatonna, about 60 miles south of Minneapolis. One guard went inside to order food for the prisoners.

The other guard opened a set the van’s doors so the inmates could have ventilation while they smoked, said John Zierdt, president of TransCor America, the company that was transporting the prisoners.

``The guard who was guarding them decided he was cold and decided to sit in the front of the vehicle and left the (outside) doors open,″ Zierdt said. The inmates opened a set of mesh doors, jerked the guard out of the van and nearly ran him over as they drove off, acting Owatonna Police Chief Gene Fisher said.

The van was found in a residential area four to five blocks away from the Burger King with eight prisoners inside. Two other convicts were captured within 15 to 20 minutes. The guard was not injured.

Meanwhile, the couple found Land in their house in Owatonna when they came home from work Thursday evening, police said.

Police had few details about how the couple was held overnight. After Land took them driving in their car this morning, they escaped when Land stopped at a gas station near Northfield, about 25 miles from Owatonna, to get cigarettes.

The van had come to Minnesota from Kansas to drop off some prisoners and was to continue on to Florida. Land had been released on probation earlier this year in Florida but disappeared a few weeks ago, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was finally picked up in Kansas on a drunken driving charge, Florida authorities said.

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