Marcos Cerda is detained by police on Axtell Street Thursday after he led authorities on a chase through the streets east of Magistrate Court. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A 20-year-old inmate awaiting a preliminary hearing at Magistrate court managed to escaped custody Thursday only to be captured a short time later, done in by an alert citizen and bad luck.
Still wearing his jail-issued orange jumpsuit, Marcos Cerda of Clovis surrendered without incident in a nearby alley after he was confronted by police.
Officials said Cerda showed initiative by picking the locks on his hand and legs restraints and climbing into the ceiling of a holding cell, but his timing was poor.
At the time of his 2:30 p.m. escape, twice the normal number of Clovis police officers were on duty because of a shift change.
“You’ve got shift change at the police department (at that time), which is a block away, plus you’ve got Magistrate court filled with officers waiting to testify,” said Sgt. James Schoeffel of the Clovis Police Department. “This guy picked a real bad time to do something like that.”
More than two dozen law enforcement officers responded to the scene, including several wearing body armor and carrying guns.
According to court documents, Cerda is facing 15 charges stemming from two separate incidents, including aggravated battery on a household member, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, larceny, three counts of kidnapping, battery on a police officer and two counts of aggravated battery.
After his escape attempt, he man could be facing more.
Prosecutor Drew Tatum said additional charges for escape from custody and criminal damage may be added.
Cerda was in a holding pen with several other inmates at Magistrate court when he apparently produced a wire or paper clip and “jimmied” his the locks on his restraints, according to Curry County Adult Detention Center administrator Don Burdine. Free of the restraints, Cerda climbed through a false roof.
Officials said he climbed across the building before he fell through the ceiling into a vacant courtroom.
A Sheriff’s deputy spotted Cerda jump a railing outside the courthouse and start east along Grand Avenue in his orange jumpsuit, Sheriff Roger Hatcher said.
Wayne Newcomb was at his sister’s house in the 200 block of Axtell Street when he heard on the scanner someone had escaped from custody.
Spotting Cerda on the porch next door, Newcomb went outside, jumped the front-yard fence and flagged down an officer cruising the street.
At the scene, Schoeffel and another officer went down a driveway to where Cerda was last spotted, he said.
The officers commanded Cerda to come out of a shed but nothing happened, so Schoeffel went around the side.
“I popped around the corner, and he saw me and stuck his hands out and said, ‘I give, I surrender,’” Schoeffel said.
Donna Tucker, owner of Green Thumb Nursery at the corner of Axtell Street and Grand Avenue, said she went out to the ally behind her store where she saw several officers creeping around with guns drawn.
“My dogs were carrying on like crazy, so I knew someone was close,” she said. Police instructed her to go back inside.