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Los Angeles Officials Mistakenly Release Alleged Murderer From Custody

Authorities in Los Angeles were hunting a murder suspect Tuesday morning after they mistakenly released him from custody while he was awaiting trial.

Steven Lawrence Wright, 37, was "erroneously released" from Los Angeles' Inmate Reception Center before his trial for the gang-related murder in January 2011, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement Monday.

Image: Steven Lawrence Wright
Steven Lawrence Wright. LA County Sheriff's Department

"He should be assumed to be armed and dangerous because he is a known gang member," LASD spokesman Cmdr. Keith Swensson told NBC Southern California.

Wright was "erroneously released" around 12:55 p.m. Saturday (3:55 p.m. ET) and the sheriff's department said it "became aware of the release" at 9:30 p.m. Sunday — more than 32 hours later.

Cmdr. Swensson told NBC Southern California the suspect was released because of a "clerical error" in which "our employees missed the additional information provided by the court on a separate page."

The staff believed they were releasing Wright after he served a five-day contempt-of-court stay, but they failed to spot the murder charge, Swensson said.

"The Sheriff's Department takes this matter very seriously and is fully engaged with returning inmate Wright to custody, aggressively pursuing a number of leads as to his whereabouts," the statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Image: A Wanted Poster for Steven Lawrence Wright
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) detectives are searching for 37-year-old Steven Lawrence Wright. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

In addition, as is the case with all "erroneous releases," the sheriff's department said it would conduct a critical-incident review "to make necessary improvements to the system."

Wright was arrested in April 2011 for the alleged gang-related murder in Pasadena, California, three months earlier.

The mistaken release comes less than two weeks after three inmates escaped a jail in Orange County, before one surrendered and two were recaptured over the past weekend.