San Jose, Calif. » A Northern California sheriff is promising to capture a pair of men who sawed their way out of a California jail and vanished late Thanksgiving Eve.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters Friday that authorities are using helicopters, dogs and other means as they search night and day for the two men. A $20,000 reward has been posted for the capture of Rogelio Chavez and Laron Campbell.
Smith said authorities believe the two are still in the area, noting search dogs tracked them to a nearby river before losing their scent.
“We will find these two and any person who is harboring or aiding and abetting in their escape we will attempt to prosecute,” she said.
The sheriff also told reporters that authorities have received numerous credible tips from people who believe they saw the two, including one tip that came from the area that search dogs had chased them to.
She encouraged people to keep reporting such information but warned they should not to try to confront the men.
“I want to remind the community that these are dangerous people,” she said. “They are not to be approached. Please just dial 911.”
The pair escaped with two other prisoners by cutting through the bars covering a second-story window of the county’s main jail and then rappelling to the ground. The others were quickly apprehended.
Chavez, 33, and Campbell, 26, are facing possible life sentences if convicted of burglary, extortion, false imprisonment and other charges they were being held on. Chavez had been held at the jail since August and Campbell since February 2015.
Chavez, who is from San Jose, is recognizable by a distinctive face tattoo resembling an inky gash going through his left eye. Campbell, who is from Palo Alto, stands 6-feet-4.
Smith said authorities still haven’t found the tools used to cut through the bars and don’t know how they were obtained.
“That’s one of our big concerns,” she said. “To think that we have inmates in there with those kinds of tools is pretty disheartening.”
The escapees were being held in a dormitory designed to hold 20 people. Conditions there are often very loud, Smith said, making it hard for guards to hear any suspicious noise that might have been made.
That section of the jail, built in the 1950s, doesn’t have cameras either, which helped facilitate the escape.
“From the officers’ station you cannot see in,” Smith said, adding there are plans to put cameras there in the future.
Wednesday’s escape was discovered by a deputy patrolling the jail’s perimeter.
“He kind of thought he saw some movement in the shadows, looked up and saw some bedding in the window,” said Sgt. Rich Glennon.
A similar escape was made from a Southern California jail in January by three men authorities later determined had planned it for weeks.
They cut through the main Orange County jail’s fifth-floor bars with tools smuggled in by an outsider, rappelled to the ground and escaped in a get-away car.
They later abducted a cab driver and forced him to drive them to Northern California.
The escape began to unravel when one of the men, fearful the others would kill the driver, fled to Southern California with him and surrendered. The others were captured soon after in San Francisco.