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Police continue search for ex-deputy

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Police officers flooded Earlville during a manhunt for former La Salle County sheriff’s deputy Lowell “Max” Ambler on Wednesday.

  • David Giuliani

Earlville City Hall was on a temporary lockdown because of the search for Lowell “Max” Ambler. A City Council meeting set for Wednesday night was canceled.

  • David Giuliani

Police searched into the night Wednesday for a former La Salle County sheriff’s deputy who is accused of home invasion and carjacking.

Authorities started searching for Lowell “Max” Ambler, 46, in the woods south of Earlville about 2 p.m. He allegedly was spotted there.

A WGN helicopter released footage of a Hyundai Santa Fe south of Earlville that Ambler was believed to have stolen in a carjacking Wednesday morning in Plainfield.

Police officers from departments across the region stood along U.S. 34 facing south and holding their guns. Officers also searched buildings and cars.

Ambler grew up in Earlville and has spent much of his adult life in the community. From 2000 to 2015, he owned a two-story house with his wife, Kristen, at Grant and Bates streets. They have five children.

In early 2015, his son, Lowell “Dalton” Ambler, 17, died of cancer. Not long before, the Amblers finalized their divorce. Max Ambler also ended his 15-year career with the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office in 2015, a few years short of retirement.

He was a former Earlville alderman and police officer. His father, Lowell Ambler, was a former Earlville police chief.

Earlville and Leland schools will be closed Thursday as the manhunt continues.

After the search began in Earlville on Wednesday, the local schools and City Hall went on temporary lockdown. Students left school about a half hour late, under the watch of a police officer.

A state police plane scanned the area south of Earlville, while officers searched on the ground. Two TV station helicopters hovered.

One woman waiting for her grandchildren at the school complex said she knew Ambler.

“I’ve known him since he was this high,” she said, motioning about three feet from the ground. “I don’t know him this way. This is somebody I don’t know.”

Rita Kain, who lives on Bates Street across from Ambler’s old house, said he was a good neighbor, “a normal guy.”

“This really surprised me. He went to school with my son,” Kain said.

Another neighbor, Mary Bender, taught him English when he was in school. She had no complaints about Ambler as a neighbor.

“He worked hard to keep up his yard,” she said.

Asked about the turn of events, she said, “We live in a crazy world. My concern is for his kids and ex-wife.”

Many people in Earlville leave their doors unlocked, she said, but they may want to change that practice for the time being because of Ambler.

“To me, he’s gone over the edge,” Bender said.

On Aug. 26, Ambler entered a woman’s rural Compton home in Lee County, with his face covered, and bound the woman’s wrists with duct tape and bruised her, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.

Earlville students were let out of school a half hour later than usual because of a lockdown as a result of the search for Lowell “Max” Ambler.

Ambler was charged Sept. 15 in Lee County with aggravated kidnapping and home invasion. Ambler was jailed, but soon posted $25,000 cash to be released. A new arrest warrant was issued Monday, because authorities said he violated a condition of his bond.

Late Monday, a semitractor-trailer was stolen from rural Mendota and found unoccupied on Normantown Road in Plainfield, near the residence of a victim. Police believe Ambler is linked to the semi theft, which prompted a six-hour search of the area Tuesday.

Police are warning the public Ambler is possibly armed with a 45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and should be considered dangerous, according to a news release from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. Authorities said anyone seeing Ambler should call 911 immediately.

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