An inmate who escaped the maximum security side of the Atwater penitentiary Friday night was on the run for at least four hours before prison officials notified local authorities, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed.
Inmate Guaymar Cabrera-Hernandez, 26, was discovered missing from the prison at 8:30 p.m. Friday, according to a news release by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
“Had they contacted us sooner, we might have had a much different result,” Warnke said, noting that prison officials contacted his office at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
Deborah Cassity, an executive assistant for the Atwater penitentiary, did not comment on the reason for the four-hour delay in notifying the sheriff, saying “all events and procedures are currently being investigated.”
Cassity said the community should use caution and not approach Cabrera-Hernandez if he is seen.
“They should immediately contact the U.S. Marshals Service or local law enforcement,” she said.
The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and local authorities are involved in locating Cabrera-Hernandez, Cassity said.
Warnke said his office helped in the search with two aircraft and a bloodhound.
“It was pointed out to me during the flight that he climbed over the fence on the north side of the prison, and that he was probably injured,” Warnke told the Sun-Star.
Cabrera-Hernandez was still on the run Saturday evening.
“This is going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Warnke said.
Cassity stated that the Atwater prison has been secured and visitation has been suspended until further notice.
Federal Bureau of Prisons officers were guarding the Ladino Avenue entrance to the prison Saturday at the corner of Fox Road, turning away at least one vehicle with people seeking to visit an inmate.
Prison officials declined to elaborate on Cabrera-Hernandez’s history of escaping or attempting to escape custody.
Cabrera-Hernandez is the second escapee from the Atwater penitentiary this year.
Eric Pree, who was serving a sentence of eight years and five months for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, walked away from a minimum-security camp at the prison on Jan. 29.
Pree remains missing.
Cabrera-Hernandez is a Hispanic male with black hair and brown eyes. He is 5-feet three-inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds. According to a notice from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Cabrera-Hernandez is a Guatemalan national.
Cabrera-Hernandez was serving a 115-month sentence from the District of Columbia and Northern District of West Virginia for prisoner escape, unarmed carjacking, assault with intent to commit robbery, destruction of property less than $1,000 and attempted escape.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562