Escaped inmate from Atwater prison captured, Merced sheriff confirms

U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials stand guard Saturday, May 13, 2017, in front of the U.S. Penitentiary Atwater.
U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials stand guard Saturday, May 13, 2017, in front of the U.S. Penitentiary Atwater.

A 26-year-old Guatemalan man who somehow managed to escape a maximum security federal prison in Atwater is back in custody, the Merced County sheriff confirmed late Saturday.

Few details of the capture of Guaymar Cabrera-Hernandez were available Saturday. Deborah Cassity, a public information officer for USP Atwater, declined to comment late Saturday. Cassity around 9:30 p.m. Saturday said prison officials would release a statement “very shortly.”

Sheriff Vern Warnke said he was informed just before 8:30 p.m. that Cabrera-Hernandez had been taken into custody somewhere along Youd Road, several miles north of the federal prison from which he escaped 24 hours earlier.

Authorities believed Cabrera-Hernandez may have been injured during his escape attempt, possibly while climbing over the double razor-wire fence on the north side of the prison. An update on his condition was not available Saturday.

Prison officials said correctional officers discovered Cabrera-Hernandez was missing around 8:30 p.m. Friday. They have said they still are investigating how he escaped and have declined to provide details.

Many questions linger regarding the escape, including how it happened. Perhaps more pressing for Merced County officials, however, is the question raised early Saturday morning by Warnke. The sheriff said his office wasn’t alerted to the escape until around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, after Cabrera-Hernandez already had been on the run for at least four hours.

The Merced sheriff said he wanted to why that much time elapsed.

“Had they contacted us sooner, we might have had a much different result,” Warnke said.

Prison officials did not answer that question Saturday, saying only that “all events and procedures” were being investigated.

The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and local authorities all were involved in the manhunt Saturday.

Cabrera-Hernandez was serving a 115-month sentence from the District of Columbia and Northern District of West Virginia for prisoner escape, unarmed carjacking, assault with intent to commit robbery, destruction of property less than $1,000 and attempted escape.

Prison officials declined to elaborate on Cabrera-Hernandez’s history of escaping or attempting to escape custody.

Cabrera-Hernandez is the second escapee from the Atwater penitentiary this year.

Eric Pree, who was serving a sentence of eight years and five months for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, walked away from a minimum-security camp at the prison on Jan. 29.

Pree remains missing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482