Considered armed and dangerous, an inmate accused of capital murder escaped earlier today from a Mississippi county jail. Using an improvised weapon, 34-year-old Rafael McCloud forced a jail employee to strip down and give up his clothes, then bolted out a downstairs door.
“He forced the guard to disrobe and then put on his clothes,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace told the Vicksburg Post. “He then held the shank against the guard as they went downstairs and he left through a side door.”
McCloud let the employee go, but ran off with a radio and a set of keys. The fugitive dropped the items before leaving the jail grounds and were later recovered.
Pace said they are not sure yet if the inmate managed to somehow control something in the facility or if it was a mistake by staff that allowed McCloud to get free.
Warren County sheriff deputies and Vicksburg police are currently on the hunt for McCloud in the surrounding area. A helicopter unit, Metro One, is searching by air. K9 officer Thor has also joined the manhunt.
McCloud was wearing green pants and a jail jacket when he was last seen, which was around 5:30 a.m. this morning. Officials are confident he has taken off the jacket by now.
“We found his orange jail flip-flops near the jail, so he may be barefoot,” Pace said. “We did not recover his shank, so we are considering him armed and dangerous.”
The fugitive is approximately 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds.
Search teams are focused on an area where McCloud used to live, less than a mile from the Mississippi jail. Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong has committed extra patrol shifts until he is back in custody.
“We had a staff meeting, so we had extra people coming in; we have more than enough people out,” Armstrong said. “We are going to keep people on duty until this man is caught.”
Until he is found, several local schools are on lock-down according to Warren County School District Superintendent Chad Shealy. The list includes the Academy of Innovation, Vicksburg Junior High, Warren Central High, and Bowmar Elementary.
At this time the school lock downs are only a precautionary measure while authorities do a thorough search of the school buildings and grounds. Additional staff is also on hand at each campus, according to Shealy.
Catholic schools in the Vicksburg area are also taking extra precautions. St. Aloysius principal Dr. Buddy Strickland has ordered every exterior door be locked and no one currently in the building be allowed to leave.
Rafael McCloud was being held at the jail for multiple charges, including capital murder, rape, and grand larceny. He is accused in the June 28 kidnapping and killing of 69-year-old Sharon Wilson.
Wilson’s body was discovered behind Vicksburg’s abandoned Kuhn Memorial State Hospital by ghost hunting enthusiasts in June. The Warren County sheriff’s office was alerted when the group reported they had found the body and led investigators to the scene.
While the victim’s body was found outside the facility, blood trails indicated she had been inside. After analysis, investigators determined Wilson was brutally beaten and shot in the head.
Later, Rafael McCloud was picked by Leland Police Department during a routine traffic stop. Police found McCloud and another family in possession of a stolen car and weapon. The owner of the vehicle was Sharon Wilson, who had been reported missing.
Sheriff Pace and his folks still on the hunt, but still no hard and fast clues on the location of Rafael McCloud. pic.twitter.com/0Qp2SraRDK— Therese Apel (@TRex21) March 2, 2016
According to court records, the escaped fugitive has several prior felony convictions for auto burglary, grand larceny, and armed robbery. Police are advising residents to stay away from McCloud and to call 911 immediately if he is spotted.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of McCloud, they are urged to call Crime Stoppers at 601-355-TIPS right away.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]