Film & TV

How to Escape a Manhunt in Miami, According to Hunted Fugitive David Windecher

David Windecher, looking all shady in Hunted.
©2016 CBS Broadcasting
David Windecher, looking all shady in Hunted.
In 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger's film The Running Man depicted a 2017 game show in which convicted criminals fight for their lives, many times to the death, to obtain freedom. The "runners" were constantly trying to evade the "stalkers" to keep themselves, and the game, alive.

Well, here we are in 2017, with the new TV series Hunted. And though the reality game show might not be life-or-death, it definitely involves some seriously high-level hide-and-seeking.

Hunted, CBS's new competition series, debuts this Sunday, January 22, after the AFC Championship Game. The series will follow nine teams of two “fugitives" in a real-life manhunt as the criminals attempt to shake police and investigators to stay on the run, out of jail, and in the hunt for a huge payday. In today's digital world — where virtually every movement humans make is tracked or pinged off a cell-phone tower, and where humans are addicted to refreshing their social media feeds — this is no easy task.

Defense attorney David Windecher, a Miami native, and his girlfriend Emiley Cox will form one of the "hunted" teams looking to score the $250,000 grand prize, which will be awarded to each team that successfully shakes authorities for 28 days. The pair will be tasked with staying out of handcuffs for as long as they can, while skilled investigators combine state-of-the-art tracking methods with traditional tactics to scour the 100,000 square miles in which the game will take place.
New Times caught up with Windecher, who says his experiences growing up in Miami, and his job as an attorney, readied him for what it was going to take to thrive on Hunted.

"Growing up in the streets of Miami, I had constant run-ins with the law. Before I was 19, I was arrested 13 times. That doesn't speak much to my escapability, but I can assure you the amount of times I escaped capture far outweigh the number of times I got caught," Windecher says.

"Those experiences gave me a sense of how to understand what strategies beat cops use to apprehend criminals. I understood how to create rouses or diversions to send police in the opposite direction. Those experiences, coupled with my current profession as an attorney representing clients charged with major felonies, has allowed me to understand the psyche and strategies of the best law enforcement agents the government has to offer."

Here in Florida, where the phrase "a sunny place with shady people" is more fact than a stereotype, we could all use some pointers on lying low. So we asked Windecher: What does it take to go undetected and uncaptured in 2017, at a time when cameras are everywhere and technology makes the chances of your staying on the run extremely unlikely?

"If someone is trying to evade capture, the number one thing is to minimize your digital footprint. Stay away from any technology," Windecher says. "Hunted will give you a glimpse at how your online presence, even a minimal one, can create a resource that will lead to an eventual capture. Big Brother is watching, and they can see almost everything. It is kind of scary to imagine that nothing goes unseen or recorded. This game is not for those who can't stay off the internet."

The most successful fugitives are also prepared for the moment. Remember Liam Neeson in the Taken series? He had stash bags for moments when he needed to disappear at a moment's notice. It seems logical that if you need to make a run for it, the last thing you want to be doing is going to the ATM and Walmart.

So what should go in a "fugitive bag"? According to the expert, you need the essentials. And snacks. Definitely snacks. Running is hard, and you don't want a trip to 7-Eleven for beef jerky to be the mistake that gets you pinched.
"A fugitive bag should include a few changes of clothing. You cannot always wear the same thing, or people will spot you and leads will develop. You have to continue to alter your look as much as possible," Windecher says. "You also want to include snacks. There were periods that we didn't eat for hours or days at a time. A lack of nutrition will cause your mind to work against you. Your thoughts are not sharp, and there are no opportunities to relent. You have to be on your A-game 24 hours a day. Snacks are essential," he says.

"Other things you would want are a compass, a paper map, and a flashlight. You never know where you'll end up, and you better make sure you know which direction you're traveling in. For a Miami run, I might add a bottle of sunscreen."

Deactivating your Twitter account and throwing your phone into a pool is one thing. Packing a bag full of maps, Clif bars, and gummy worms is another. But where in hell are we even going? Abuela's house in Hialeah? The hotel from Bloodline down in the Keys? Delray Beach? No. The answer is no to all of those places.

"I grew up in the hood, and that is where I would go. People in the hood don't volunteer information to the police. We tend to look after one another. The old adage 'snitches get stitches' is a street principle that is seldom violated," Windecher says, with the caveat: "There is no completely safe place.

"These hunters are the best of the best. We're talking former FBI, CIA, Navy SEALs, US Marshals. They were relentless in their pursuit. We constantly felt the heat [in Hunted]. So I doubt they would leave any stone unturned. Blending in on South Beach would be asking to get caught. There are cameras on every street corner on Collins Ave, Washington Ave, Fifth Street. Facial- and body-recognition cameras would pick a fugitive up in no time. Even if you have a disguise on, your gait could give you away. So if you're on the run in Miami, stay away from South Beach and the Keys, or you'll be spending time at the Miami-Dade Pretrial Detention Center."

Premieres after the NFL’s AFC Championship Game Sunday, January 22 (approximately 10 to 11 p.m. ET). The series will then move to Wednesdays on January 25 with a special two-hour episode beginning at 8 p.m. ET, on CBS.