Fugitive alert: Six inmates, including violent gang members, escape prison – ‘armed and dangerous’

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MERCED COUNTY, CA – Six inmates who were being held inside of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Jail were said to have escaped shortly before midnight on January 9th. According to the sheriff’s office, many of the escapees are both alleged gang members and firearm-related offenders. 

In a post to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office’s official Facebook page, the following was relayed: 

“On January 10, 2021, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Jail Staff determined that just before midnight [on January 9th], six inmates housed at the Merced County Downtown Jail were missing from their cell.”

“A preliminary investigation has determined that the inmates were able to gain access to the roof of the facility and utilize a homemade rope to scale down the side of the jail.”

The MCSO stated in their release that a task force has been assembled to aid in getting the fugitives rounded up. However, the public is being warned to not approach the suspects, but instead to call 911 if they happen to spot them. 

From what the MCSO says of the escapees, the six “inmates should be considered armed and dangerous.”

The escaped inmates are as follows, per the MCSO: 

Jorge Barron: 20-years-old, Hispanic Male Adult, 5’05” 140lbs, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, from Atwater, Ca– Current Charges – violation of probation.

Jorge Barron mugshot
Jorge Barron – MCSO

Gabriel Francis Coronado: 19-years-old, Hispanic Male Adult, 5’10”, 225lbs, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, from Atwater, Ca – Current Charges – Attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, participation in a criminal street gang, felon in possession of a firearm, violation of probation.

Gabriel Francis Coronado mugshot
Gabriel Francis Coronado

Manuel Allen Leon: 21-years-old, Hispanic Male Adult, 5’10” 165lbs, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, from Vallejo, California – Current Charges – Assault with a firearm, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, evade peace officer – reckless driving, participation in a criminal street gang, carrying a loaded firearm.

Manuel Allen Leon mugshot
Manuel Allen Leon

Andres Nunez Rodriguez Jr.: 21-years-old, Hispanic Male Adult, 5’07”, 145lbs, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, from Planada, Ca – Current Charges – Attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, participation in a criminal street gang, felon in possession of a firearm.

Andres Nunez Rodriguez Jr mugshot
Andres Nunez Rodriguez Jr

Fabian Cruz Roman: 22-years-old, Hispanic Male Adult, 5’06”, 145lbs, Black Hair, Brown Eyes, from Los Banos, Ca – Current Charges – Murder.

Fabian Cruz Roman mugshot
Fabian Cruz Roman

Edgar Eduardo Ventura: 22-years-old, Hispanic Male Adult, 5’11”, 129lbs, Black Hair, Brown Eyes from Portland, Oregon– Current Charges – Felon in possession of a firearm, participation in a criminal street gang, violation of probation.

Edgar Eduardo Ventura mugshot
Edgar Eduardo Ventura

Specifics on how the escape was pulled off have been very light, with only noting that a makeshift rope was utilized and roof access was likely attained. But details on how the inmates were being detained, and how exactly an inmate could achieve roof access haven’t been divulged by the MCSO. 

Sheriff Vern Warnke wouldn’t afford any details on the aforementioned with regard to the “how”, only saying that the roof is approximately 20-feet high and that the makeshift rope was made out of sheets. 

The sheriff further noted that while the MCSO has ideas on where some of the escapees may have fled to at the onset of their escape- he believes that they’ll be unlikely to stick together and possible areas where they might’ve initially went to are areas they likely have already departed from. 

This is an ongoing investigation. 

Please follow Law Enforcement Today as we gather further insight into this developing situation. 

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In other news related to criminal fugitives, a suspect who was hiding out in Texas was said to have gunned down a pastor while being on the lam earlier in January. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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WINONA, TX- A Texas pastor was fatally shot after he confronted a fugitive who had broken into the building to hide from the police the night before. 

According to reports, the suspect, since identified as Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, was hiding in the church bathroom after a high-speed chase.

During a press conference, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said that the incident began at approximately 7:30 p.m. on January 2nd after Lindale police received several reports about someone brandishing a firearm through the sunroof of a dark-colored Volkswagen Jetta.

Soon after, a Smith County deputy saw the suspect’s vehicle at a convenience store and tried to stop it, but the car sped away. Deputies pursued for more than 20 miles, eventually being joined by troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

video

Smith said that the car reached speeds of around 100 mph, but one of its tires was a spare and gave out during the chase, causing the Jetta to crash onto the property near the Starrville Methodists Church in Winona.

A shotgun was found in the vehicle. A perimeter was established, with the assistance of K-9 units and drones for several hours. Deputies searched for the suspect in the woods and found part of a shot or booth he was believed to be wearing.

The very next morning, just before 9:30 a.m., Smith County dispatchers received call that there had been a shooting inside the church. Smith said in a statement:

“What we believe happened this morning is the suspect backtracked his way, after deputies left the area and came back and in order to get out of the cold and entered a broken window and entered the church.”

Smith added:

“He was still in the bathroom of the church when the door closed when the pastor or his wife, opened the door and met with him.”

Starrville Methodist Church Pastor Mark Allen McWilliams, 62, arrived at the church shortly before 9:30 a.m. on Sunday in order to prepare for the morning service. His wife, Rosemary and two other parishioners were also there to assist him.

Smith told reporters:

“As the pastor opened the bathroom door, he was confronted by the individual who had been hiding in the church. Apparently, he fled in the woods and when everyone left, he retreated into the church.”

Woolen was holding the pastor’s red bank bag when the confrontation occurred. Smith said:

“The pastor, who had a firearm himself, apparently drew his firearm on the individual and ordered him to stop.”

Smith said that Woolen followed McWilliams’ commands to get onto the floor, but when the pastor momentarily became distracted by his wife, Woolen used it as an opportunity to grab the gun away from him. Smith said:

“Woolen came toward the front door then lunged at the pastor and disarmed him.”

Woolen shot at McWilliams, who died from his wounds at the scene. Smith said that the suspect then fired at Rosemary, but was not successful in hitting her. One of the parishioners was also armed, but was not able to utilize his weapon before Woolen shot at him.

The man was running away from the gunman when he was shot. The man is expected to recover from his wounds. Rosemary fell during the attack and was transported to a nearby hospital where she was treated for her injuries.

According to Smith, Woolen then stole a 2018 GMC pickup belonging to one of the victims and fled the scene. Investigators were able to use the vehicle’s OnStar technology to track and disable the stolen truck.

Woolen has been charged with aggravated assault while exhibiting a deadly weapon, aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, and first-degree capital murder. His bond has been set at over $3.5 million.

According to Smith, Woolen has been arrested multiple times since last year for probation violations, drug possession, and assault. He was also wanted for questioning in connection with two drive-by shootings. 

Woolen has a court appearance scheduled for January 13th in Tarrant County, where he has a pending charge of assault against a family member by choking. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared his condolences in a statement:

“Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy.”

He added:

“I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who apprehended the suspect and I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for those affected by this horrific shooting. The State of Texas is working closely with first responders and local officials to ensure that justice is served and that the Starrville community has the resources it needs during this time.”

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