At least a dozen inmates escaped from a Yakima, Washington, jail Monday night, leading to the country sheriff joking that the men are ignoring the state’s shelter-in-place order. According to a report from NBC News, the escapees might have been spurned to escape by fear of the coronavirus infecting their facility.
Authorities believe that the inmates used a table as a battering ram to force open an exterior fire door at the Yakima County Jail, in the city’s downtown. From there, they jumped a fence and, soon enough, were out into the neighborhood.
Yakima police ordered residents in the area to stay indoors, although Washington residents were already doing so after Governor Jay Inslee issued an order for residents to stay inside to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Soon enough, six of the inmates were recaptured, although it remains unclear as of this writing how and when that happened.
In a statement, Yakima County Sheriff Robert Udell quipped that the men are ignoring Inslee’s order.
“Despite the governor’s shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, apparently they didn’t want to do that so they are out and about,” he said.
In fact, it may have been that same order that spurred the men to make their escape.
As KDNU-TV reports, Udell believes that, when the escapees heard Inslee’s orders to stay at home, they likely figured that they should risk an escape, rather than face the prospect of being exposed to the coronavirus inside the prison.
INFORMATION: The majority of escaped inmates were last seen wearing the below clothing. Possibly Barefoot or wearing orange sandals. Call 911 if you see anything suspicious. pic.twitter.com/4zO4h2Z9EV
— Yakima P.D. (@yakimapolice) March 24, 2020
In fact, their risk of contracting the coronavirus on the inside appears low at this time, according to Ed Campbell, the director of the Yakima County Department of Corrections. Of the 800 or so inmates in the facility, four have been tested for the virus and have been found to be negative. None of the remaining inmates — nor any of the staff — are believed to be showing symptoms of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory illness derived from the coronavirus.
“We are continuing to monitor all in-custody inmates and if any show any signs would quarantine them in a negative air-flow unit and have them tested,” Campbell said.
Outside of the county jail, at least 41 people are believed to be infected with the novel coronavirus in Yakima County.
The escapees still at large were identified as Neftali Serrano, 27, Hugo Alejandro Amezcua-Hernandez, 28, and Fernando Gustavo Casteneda-Sandoval, 31, all from Yakima; Tyrone Adam Mulvaney, 34, and Miguel Angel Chavez-Amezcua, 27, from Moses Lake; and Andrew Derrick Wolfley, 26, from Union Gap.
Between them, they’re accused of theft, assault, resisting arrest possession of a firearm, and drug offenses.