Atwater prison failed to notify authorities of missing inmate for hours, sheriff says

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The Merced County Sheriff says this is the second time they've had a communication problem with the federal prison in Atwater, and he promises there will not be a third. (KFSN)

A federal inmate is back behind bars after a brief prison break. Guaymar Cabrera-Hernandez escaped Friday night from the United States Penitentiary, Atwater but local authorities weren't notified until hours later.

The Merced County Sheriff says this is the second time they've had a communication problem with the federal prison in Atwater. The first time was when a minimum security inmate escaped in January, and Sheriff Vern Warnke says the problem has to stop.

He's taking action to make sure it doesn't happen a third time after Cabrera-Hernandez, a Guatemalan-native, was found a few miles north of the prison along Youd Road a day after he made his way out.

"To hear that a max security inmate got out, that's a little disconcerting," Atwater mayor James Price said.

Warnke says they were called by prison officials to see if their K9 division could assist, but the problem is that the call came in several hours after the inmate's escape.

"When it breaches the walls and goes into the county, I should be notified immediately because I am responsible for every citizen in this county," Warnke said. "And to have someone as professional as that not have the courtesy to contact the sheriff's office."

Warnke says he was not told how the prisoner escaped but does know that he does have a history of escaping.

"He had been in this facility for a week, transferred from Washington D.C. for attempted escape there," he said. "He was found between two fences there."

Warnke says they got the call for help at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, and he says he also got word of prison guards stopping people in their cars and asking for IDs.

"They still need to get warrants," Warnke said. "They still need to get permission."

Action News did try to contact someone at the prison and sent them questions but did not receive any response. Warnke says he hopes to meet with the warden and talk about some sort of protocol.

He says he also planned to reach out to Congressman Jim Costa about the issue.

Related Topics:
escaped prisonermerced countyAtwater
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