By Darrell Todd Maurina
Clovis police are still looking for a man who walked out of the police department offices Oct. 29 after being arrested for attacking a woman in her car.
In the meantime, police are looking for ways to make their building more secure. Those options could include anything from better doors to benches with leg irons for prisoners, City Manager Ray Mondragon said.
Johnny “J.J.” Chavez, 20, was left alone in an interview room by police after being arrested along with another man, Marvin Holt, 21, while police questioned Holt. According to police reports, even though Chavez was handcuffed, he managed to open the interview room door and quietly walk about 20 feet to an exit door, leaving the building before police noticed he was gone.
Police said the two had forced a female motorist to stop her car by driving their car in front of hers and abruptly coming to a halt. Holt then yanked open her car door and tried rob the woman while beating her up, police said. After the woman began screaming, police said Chavez pulled Holt off the woman and the two sped off before being arrested later that evening.
Holt is charged with a number of offenses including attempted armed robbery. If caught, Chavez will face charges of being an accessory to Holt’s actions and escape from custody, an additional charge that could bring him up to 18 extra months in jail.
Capt. Dan Blair said the arresting officers followed proper procedures and leaving suspects unattended is unavoidable due to lack of staff. Police had already called in off-duty officers to assist with questioning the men, he said.
“We used to, when we put someone on the holding room, quite often assign an officer to sit outside the doors to watch them,” Blair said. “We have not had that luxury due to calls on the street and manpower concerns.”
Blair said the new police department building has had other escapes since it opened in 1996, but the previous police department offices in city hall were much less secure.
“Since we’ve been in this building we’ve had two or three others, but we caught them pretty dang quick,” Blair said. “In our old building, we sat them down in the hall and they just took off.”
Blair said most escapees have been facing misdemeanor charges and said he doesn’t remember someone accused of a felony escaping from the department before.
Mondragon was deputy chief when the new building was built and helped design the facility.
“We wanted to design the building to make it safer for the officers and the staff,” Mondragon said. “A lot of times the detectives bring suspects into their offices and close the door.
“We certainly do try to use precautions but you never can do enough,” Mondragon said. “When prisons can’t stop people escaping, you certainly can’t stop people escaping from a police department.”