Two inmates working in a prison garden wrested guns from two guards Monday, exchanged gunfire with other officers and stole a pickup truck, running over and killing one of the guards as she tried to stop them, prison officials said.
One inmate was captured within an hour, soon after police say the pair committed a carjacking. The other was caught a few hours later, after a manhunt that included a police helicopter, bloodhounds and Stetson-hatted lawmen on horseback.
John Ray Falk, 40, the first inmate caught, has been serving a life sentence for murder in 1986. Jerry Martin, 37, serving a 50-year attempted murder sentence since 1997, was found hiding in a tree, having stripped to his boxer shorts in a futile attempt to prevent dogs from detecting his scent, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.
Based on their good disciplinary record in prison, they were classified as minimum security inmates and assigned to do field work outside the prison under the supervision of officers.
“In this case, obviously, something went wrong,” Lyons said.
Inmates get weapons, truck
They were among 76 inmates guarded by six officers in a garden outside the criminal justice department’s Wynne Unit, along Interstate 45 and just north of Huntsville, Lyons said.
Either Falk or Martin approached officer Susan Canfield around 10:10 a.m. to ask her to hold what officials believe was a watch, Lyons said. When Canfield, who was on horseback, reached for the object, a struggle ensued and the inmate got her weapon. The second inmate was able to get another officer’s weapon, Lyons said.
The two inmates exchanged gunfire with officers, stole a Huntsville city truck from a nearby parking area and ran over Canfield, still on horseback, as she tried to stop them, Lyons said.
Lyons said many details remained sketchy and it was not clear who was driving the truck. She did not know what happened to the horse.
Canfield, 59, had been a corrections officer for seven years, Lyons said.
The inmates dumped the pickup about a mile away, then confronted a woman in a bank drive-through in Huntsville and took her car. By then, Huntsville police were in pursuit and shot out a tire in that car.
The inmates then jumped out of the woman’s vehicle and Falk was caught about 11 a.m., Lyons said.
Martin was captured about 1:40 p.m. in a wooded area west of I-45 and south of state highway 30, about a mile or two south of where Canfield was killed. The search for him included numerous state and local law enforcement agencies.
The inmates “will be facing felony escape charges at the very least,” Lyons said, adding that it was “too early to say” if the escape was planned or spur of the moment. Authorities had not decided if they would face charges in the death of the officer.
Lyons said that officials have recovered the stolen weapons.
Utah, Georgia prison breaks
In another escape, authorities in Utah on Monday searched with dogs and helicopters for two convicted killers who jumped the fence at a county jail near the Utah-Wyoming line.
Danny Martin Gallegos, 49, and Juan Carlos Diaz-Arevelo, 27, escaped Sunday from the Daggett County jail, about 120 miles east of Salt Lake City, said Jack Ford, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections. He said the men were discovered missing during an inmate count at 8 p.m. — six hours after they were last seen at the jail.
“Both men are considered dangerous. Do not approach,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Gallegos was convicted of aggravated murder in 1991. Diaz-Arevelo was convicted of murder and child abuse in 2006. Because of overcrowding, the two men had been transferred to the jail from the state prison, Ford said.
Investigators were pursuing tips along the Wasatch Front, the mountain range hugging Utah’s largest cities, the sheriff’s office said.
In north Georgia, a search ended for three inmates who escaped Sunday night from Fannin County Jail in Blue Ridge, authorities said. They were all in custody by Monday afternoon, Trooper Larry Schnall said.