The Merced County Sheriff said he met with prison officials on Tuesday morning to discuss the best ways to handle any future inmate escapes from the federal prison in Atwater.
“It went very well,” Sheriff Vern Warnke told the Merced Sun-Star. “The conversation led into future protocol. It was a very sincere conversation and the warden and I are putting together protocol so a time lapse never happens again if they have an unlikely escape in the future.”
Guaymar Cabrera-Hernandez, 26, was the first person to escape the maximum security side of U.S Penitentiary Atwater. Correctional officer noticed he was missing on Friday night around 8:30, Warnke said. He was found on Saturday night several miles north of the prison somewhere along Youd Road.
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Prison officials have not responded to numerous requests for comment. Many questions linger regarding the escape. It’s unclear for how long Cabrera-Hernandez was missing before his absence was noticed. It’s also unclear exactly how Cabrera-Hernandez got out.
The Sheriff’s Office wasn’t notified for about four hours after they discovered the inmate escaped, a decision that was criticized by Warnke because he said the delay caused a threat to public safety.
Cabrera-Hernandez was serving a nine-year sentence for prisoner escape, unarmed carjacking, assault with intent to commit robbery, destruction of property less than $1,000 and attempted escape from the District of Columbia and Northern District of West Virginia.
Donald Martin, the union president for correctional officers at USP Atwater, said he would connect the Sun-Star to the union’s regional officials at the prison who were willing to comment. However, Martin and others failed to contact the Sun-Star and did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.
On Saturday, after Cabrera-Hernandez was captured, the prison’s public information officer, Deborah Cassity, told the Sun-Star the prison would release a statement “very shortly” that would “answer all the questions.”
As of Tuesday, the Sun-Star had not received a statement addressing the incident and Cassity has not responded to multiple telephone calls and emails.
An Atwater citizen who has lived in the area for 30 years, Irene Stout, said she received a telephone call with an automated message around 10 p.m. on Friday night notifying her that an inmate escaped the prison.
“I felt I was alerted pretty fast,” she said.
Stout, 80, said she does not feel her safety was in jeopardy. She said some of her relatives who live in Atwater also received the alert.
“We weren’t too concerned about it because we live in a pretty safe neighborhood,” Stout said.
Warnke said he wants to “let people know the prison warden and law enforcement are working a lot closer in the event there is another emergency there.”
During the manhunt on Saturday, the Sheriff’s Office sent up a helicopter and aircraft to help search for the inmate.
The FBI, U.S Marshals Service and other local authorities also were involved in the manhunt.
“I can assure you as the sheriff of this county I am 100 percent confident in the cooperation with local law enforcement and the federal penitentiary will be better and that the spirit of cooperation is very strong and very much appreciated by the warden,” Warnke said.
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486