CNJ file photo Four inmates smashed holes through the cinder block walls in their cells during a Feb. 21 escape attempt.
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer
Four inmates trying to escape from jail Feb. 21 tore a metal desk from a wall, then used the desk to smash holes through the concrete block walls of their isolation cells to get free inside the facility.
Details of the attempt are part of an arrest affidavit filed Friday in Curry County Magistrate Court.
The affidavit charges inmate Guadalupe Urquizo with conspiracy, criminal damage to property, aggravated assault on a peace officer, escape from a penitentiary and possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner.
The four men involved in the attempted escape — Urquizo, 29, Brandon Wagner, 24, Rico Sena, 22, and Michael Padilla, 26 — were transferred to other facilities.
Court records show Urquizo and Padilla face the same charges. Sena and Wagner are not charged with assault on a peace officer but share the other charges as well.
According to police testimony, after breaking through the walls of three cells, the inmates armed with handmade knives made their way to a hallway.
Padilla told investigators other inmates helped them by kicking cell doors and making loud noise to cover the sound of them breaking through the concrete, the affidavit said.
In the hallway, a detention officer came face-to-face with the four men. When he saw they were carrying the broken desk and handmade shanks, investigators said surveillance footage shows he turned and fled to the safety of the control room.
The inmates are seen on surveillance footage trying to smash the window in the visitation area with the desk.
When the window didn’t give, they turned to the ceiling, ripped out light fixtures and tried to break through, the affidavit said.
Damage caused to the room is estimated at about $15,000.
Investigators said a review of the video clearly showed the four inmates were working together in the escape attempt.
Law enforcement was called to the jail just before 1 a.m. to assist with a report of out of control inmates trying to escape.
Officers entered the building and found the four in two control rooms used to monitor inmate pods. All four inmates were taken into custody without incident.
Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray said an investigation following the escape attempt revealed the facility was understaffed — with only two detention officers working the floor of the jail that night — personnel were lacking in training and the staff that was there was overworked or afraid to come to work.
In the aftermath of the escape attempt, Interim Administrator Carlos Ortiz and several members of his staff walked off the job, citing micro-management by county administration, structural deficiencies in the jail and other issues as their reason for resigning.
County Manager Lance Pyle denied any interference or micro-management and said it was the first he had heard about many of the issues raised by Ortiz and the others.
Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray has taken command of the facility until an administrator is hired.