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Suspected Heroin User Flees Police into Madison Zoo's Polar Bear Enclosure

MADISON, Wis. (CHANNEL 3000) -

A reckless driver, suspected to be high on heroin, endangered the lives of children and families near the Henry Vilas Zoo Wednesday afternoon, before being captured at gunpoint in a restricted area close to the polar bear enclosure, police said.

The Madison Police Department said concerned citizens reported an unconscious man behind the wheel of a car that had stopped on South Randall Avenue at Drake Street near a cafe at 4:25 p.m. A hypodermic needle was seen in his hand.

A police detective arrived and the man, later identified as 52-year-old Francis K. Thompson, of Madison, awoke, according to the report. The detective greeted him and asked that he roll down the window. The driver lowered it halfway and reached for the ignition. The detective asked Thompson not to start the car but he did. The investigator reached into the vehicle to try to prevent Thompson from pulling away, but the investigator's arm got momentarily stuck. A backup patrol officer arrived and was able to break the window using a baton, and  Thompson drove off.

Police said Thompson drove between parked cars and a Madison Fire Department ambulance that had just arrived with three paramedics. Thompson blew a stop sign at the congested intersection of South Randall Street and Drake Street as the patrol officer jumped in his squad car and turned on his red lights and siren pursuing Thompson's vehicle. The officer found the car parked in a nearby zoo administration lot where South Randall Street reaches a dead end.

Zoo staff pointed the officer to an area where Thompson was last seen. The officer saw Thompson was in the process of scaling an 8-foot zoo fence, with sections covered in barbed wire. Thompson landed in a restricted area where a walking path cuts above and behind the polar bear enclosure, part of the zoo's Arctic Passage.

Employees unlocked a gate for the officer who ran up the trail, spotted Thompson and ordered him to stop. Thompson cut into an area with heavy foliage but the officer was able to take him into custody.

According to the report, Thompson suffered some scrapes during his run from police but told the officer he didn't know what was going on.

Officers recovered drug paraphernalia. Police said inside heroin found in Thompson's wallet was inside a folded paper made from a Wisconsin Department of Corrections appointment reminder.

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