The Woodson County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page Thursday that Benjamin Whitaker, wanted for crimes in Labette and Montgomery counties, was captured in Yates Center that morning.
Whitaker’s arrest followed a foot and air search by law enforcement officers from Yates Center Police Department, Woodson County Sheriff’s Office, Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Iola Police Department, Coffey County Sheriff’s Office, Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office, Woodson County Emergency Management and the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Wednesday night, the Woodson County sheriff posted a bulletin to be on the lookout for Whitaker after he was allegedly spotted in Yates Center on west Kansas Street.
The Montgomery County Chronicle reported an “observant resident” of Yates Center saw Whitaker Thursday morning, contacted 911, after which law enforcement located and arrested the suspect.
Whitaker has been on the run since Dec. 17, when he was given a six-hour furlough from the Montgomery County Jail to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Coffeyville. Whitaker never returned to jail. Since then, he has been named a person of interest in a shooting in Coffeyville a week and a half ago. He also is believed to have stolen a vehicle from an Independence dealership; the car was allegedly used in that Coffeyville shooting.
On Wednesday morning, he was named a suspect in an attempted heist of an ATM machine at the Labette Bank branch at 32nd and Main streets in Parsons.
He also is charged in Labette County on a variety of criminal charges stemming from the theft of a car in Cherryvale last year. He also is wanted in Montgomery County on various drug charges and for violating a stalking order that had been filed against an acquaintance. Additionally, Whitaker will have to answer to the absconder warrant that had been filed for failing to return to court.
Whitaker was also believed to be the intended target of a drive-by shooting in Independence in December 2019 that claimed the life of his girlfriend, Kimmy Meeks of Coffeyville.
Whitaker was not shot in the shooting, but law enforcement officers say he used his girlfriend as a shield in order to avoid being hit with the gunfire. The suspect in that case, Benjamin Mason, remains incarcerated in the Montgomery County Jail on murder charges.