County releases video footage of escape attempt

CNJ photo A surveillance video released by the Curry County Sheriff shows four inmates rampaging through the jail on Feb. 21. Jail officials estimate the inmates did $15,000 worth of damage.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A surveillance video released by the Curry County Sheriff shows four inmates rampaging through the jail, taking turns trying to smash through a glass visitation window Feb. 21 during a failed escape attempt.

The video was released at the request of the Clovis News Journal.

In the video, the four men — Guadalupe Urquizo, 29, Brandon Wagner, 24, Rico Sena, 22, and Michael Padilla, 26 — can be seen climbing through a hole in a cell wall, then chasing after and throwing a cooler full of liquid at a startled detention officer in a hallway.

Urquizo was armed with a handmade knife at the time of the confrontation in the hallway, investigators said.

The detention officer confronted by inmates in the hall fled to a control room where he used a telephone to call for help.

Officers entered the building and found the four inmates in two control rooms used to monitor pods.

The video shows officers subduing inmates without incident a few minutes later and regaining control of the jail.

“(The video) provided indisputable evidence…and will also be extremely valuable during the prosecution,” Undersheriff Wesley Waller said.

Investigators say the four busted holes through the cinderblock walls of three isolation cells with a metal desk they ripped off a wall.

The same desk was later used to fracture the window in the visitation room.

The four can later be seen in the visitation room trying to break through a window, then ripping lights from the ceiling when the window held.

The cost of the damages, which Waller said have been repaired, is estimated at about $15,000.

A subsequent investigation revealed there were only two detention officers monitoring inmates at the time of the escape attempt. Sheriff Matt Murray also said jail staff were overworked and under-trained.

Murray stepped in and took command after the escape attempt led to the resignation of then-Interim Administrator Carlos Ortiz and several members of his command staff.

Murray said the facility is running smoothly a little more than three months later.

Staffing is improving, he said, with only five detention officer vacancies compared to nine at the time of the incident.

“We’ve got everybody trained,” Murray said, adding three newly hired detention officers began their training Monday.

Murray said through a selective hiring process, “I think we’re getting a better quality detention officer.”

“It’s a process, finding suitable people to work in a jail environment.”

In March, about 100 inmates were moved to other facilities so detention officers could attend an 80-hour training program.

Murray said the training went well and all inmates — the population is around 250 — have returned to the facility.

“The training has given them a basic knowledge and the confidence to enable them to perform their duties,” Waller added.

Urquizo and Padilla were charged 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.

Sena and Wagner are not charged with assault on a peace officer but share the other charges.

The four were moved to other facilities following the incident. Murray said Padilla, Urquizo and Sena are temporarily back at the jail so they can attend local court proceedings in their cases.

In January, Urquizo was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment for attacking two detention officers with a homemade knife while incarcerated at the jail in 2008.

At the time of the incident he was in Curry County for court hearings in another case.