By Darrell Todd Maurina
One man is in jail following a Wednesday night beating of a passing motorist, but a second suspect escaped from the Clovis police station.
Police said Johnny J. “J.J.” Chavez, 20, escaped from police custody while another suspect was being interviewed. According to police reports, Chavez had been handcuffed and left in an interview room. He remained a fugitive on Thursday.
Police Chief Bill Carey said handcuffing subjects is a routine procedure to prevent escapes, but it’s not foolproof.
“Those are interrogation rooms, they are not holding cells, they are just interrogation rooms where you can take a suspect or a witness,” Carey said. “I think their (officers’) supervisors will review things to see what happened.”
The incident began about 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, according to a report by Patrolman Martin Williamson.
The report said two men in a black Volkswagen Jetta pulled in front of a female driver while she was driving down the 1100 block of Comer Street. After forcing her to abruptly stop to avoid a crash, one of the men yanked open her car door, began beating her with a handgun, and demanded that she hand over her purse.
Rather than handing over the purse, the woman began screaming for help as the man yelled that he was not afraid to shoot her. A second man in the car then got out, pulled the attacker off the victim, and the two sped away toward Martin Luther King Boulevard.
The woman told police she did not know her assailants. However, several witnesses said they recognized the driver and passenger. Police located two men, Marvin Holt, 21, and Chavez in a similar vehicle about a mile away. The victim later identified the men as her attackers, police said.
Holt is charged with attempt to commit armed robbery. Chavez is charged as an accessory and with escape.
Interviewed Thursday, Williamson credited the woman’s screams with driving off her attackers and said she was furious about the incident.
“There was no hesitation in identification whatsoever,” Williamson said. “If she could have gotten out the back door of my police vehicle to get at those two, she would have.”
“She was very upset at first, she had bleeding cuts on her face where she was hit with the alleged gun,” said Williamson. “After a while she calmed down and I had her friends take her down to the police department.”
Carey said armed robberies of passing motorists are rare in Clovis, but drivers need to take precautions.
“Keep your car doors locked and make sure you are conscious of your surroundings,” Carey said. “If you feel like someone is following you, drive straight to the police department or a well-lighted area with a lot of people rather than continuing on.”
Carey said motorists in Clovis have been stopped and robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint only a few times in the last half-decade.