A manhunt is on in northern California after two jail inmates facing charges for violent crimes made a daring Thanksgiving Eve escape from the Santa Clara Main Jail.
Rogelio Chavez and Laron Campbell remained on the run Sunday, four days after breaking out of the jail, the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office said.
“The main thing is we’re asking for the public’s assistance – there’s an active search going on,” Sergeant Rich Glennon, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told KNTV. “There has never been an escape from Main Jail South in this kind of fashion. Anyone willing to escape from jail is desperate, don’t try to apprehend them, but notify law enforcement if you see them.”
Two other inmates also escaped, but were captured within 30 minutes after leaving the jail, the sheriff’s office said. They were spotted by a deputy patrolling the exterior of the jail.
Chavez, 33, of San Jose, was described as Latino, about 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, with a distinctive scar tattoo above and below his left eye. Campbell, 26, of Palo Alto, was described as black, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Men Sawed Through Bars on a Second-Floor Window & Rappelled to the Ground Using Sheets & Clothes, Police Say
The escape was discovered Wednesday night by a deputy patrolling the exterior of the jail.
“He kind of thought he saw some movement in the shadows, looked up and saw some bedding in the window,” Sheriff’s Sergeant Rich Glennon told the Associated Press.
The prisoners were being held in a dormitory with about 20 other people, and conditions are often loud, according to Sheriff Laurie Smith, making it difficult for guards to hear suspicious noises.
The sheriff’s office said the men cut through bars and then used makeshift rope, possibly using bedsheets and clothes, to rappel down from a second-floor window.
2. The Escapees Are ‘Dangerous People’ Who Face Life Sentences if Convicted of the Charges Against Them, the Sheriff Says
Sheriff Laurie Smith said they believe the two men are still in the San Francisco Bay Area, based on tips and sightings, the Associated Press reports.
“I want to remind the community that these are dangerous people,” Smith said. “They are not to be approached. Please just dial 911.”
Chavez, 33, of San Jose, and Campbell, 26, of Palo Alto, are both facing potential life sentences if they are convicted of the crimes they are accused of.
Authorities said Chavez has been at the jail since August 17 on charges including burglary, extortion, false imprisonment, resisting arrest and firearms violations. He has been arrested at least 34 times since 2005, KNTV reports.
Campbell has been in custody since February 2015 on charges including robbery, false imprisonment, criminal threats and firearms violations, officials said. He has been arrested at least four times in Santa Clara County since 2013.
3. The Sheriff Says the Escape Took Planning & Investigators Are Working to Figure Out How the Prisoners Got Access to a Saw
The escape “probably took some previous planning,” Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Rich Glennon told KNTV.
“The fact these bars were cut the way they were, it wasn’t something they thought of in a minute,” Glennon said.
Investigators are working to determine how the inmates gained access to the tools used to break out and are also trying to learn if they received help from anyone inside the jail.
The escape was not caught on camera because there are no cameras in that part of the jail facility, officials said.
Sources told KNTV the jail confiscated a hacksaw blade within the last few months in a different wing and floor from where the escape took place.
“Things are smuggled into jails and prisons all the time and I don’t know how they got it,” Sheriff Laurie Smith told KGO-TV. “Again, that’s something I’m going to be looking at — how can we shore up our security system.”
“To think that we have inmates in there with those kinds of tools is pretty disheartening,” Smith said.
4. Chavez & Campbell Are the First Inmates to Escape in the History of the Santa Clara Main Jail, Police Say
Chavez and Campbell are the first inmates to escape from the Santa Clara Main Jail, KNTV reports.
The section of the jail where the men were being held is the oldest portion of the facility and is scheduled to be rebuilt, the San Jose Mercury News reports. It was built in the 1950s.
There have been escapes from Santa Clara County facilities in the past, including in 2015, when a child molestation suspect overpowered a deputy and broke free while being transported to a medical appointment from the medium-security Elmwood Jail, the Mercury News reported at the time. That suspect, Johnell Carter, fled to Mississippi and hid with family for several months before he was recaptured.
The escape made by Chavez and Campbell is similar to the breakout of three inmates from a jail in Orange County, California, in January 2016.
Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong cut through bars, made their way through plumbing tunnels and rappelled down the jail’s wall using a makeshift rope.
The trio spent several days on the loose before Duong turned himself back in and Nayeri and Tieu were captured.
5. A $20,000 Reward Has Been Offered for Information Leading to Their Capture
A $20,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of Chavez and Campbell, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.
“Anyone with information on this case please contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Unit at (408) 808-4500 or the anonymous tip line at (408) 808-4431,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release. “If you see either inmate, please use extreme caution and do not try to apprehend them. Please Call 9-1-1 immediately.”
The manhunt for Chavez and Campbell has included officers from several departments, including the San Jose Police Department and the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. Police were using helicopters and numerous K9s to try to locate the two men.
Chavez’s stepfather spoke to KNTV about the escape and urged his son to turn himself in, saying the escape was not a smart idea.
Sheriff Laurie Smith said anyone who “aids or abets” Chavez and Campbell will be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.