Two inmates who managed to escape from a Virginia jail were apprehended hours later at a nearby IHOP, reports say.
John Garza, 37, and Arley Nemo, 43, were first discovered missing from the Newport News jail during a regular head count at 7:15 p.m. Monday evening. A report from the City of Newport News Sheriff's Office claimed that the two men had escaped earlier that afternoon by exploiting "a construction design weakness" in the building and chiseling a hole into the wall using "primitive-made tools constructed from a toothbrush and metal object."
Once the men had access to "untied rebars" between the walls, they used those rebars to further their escape. They passed through the hole in the wall to the outside, where they then scaled the containment wall to freedom, the report claimed.
That freedom was apparently short-lived. Between 3:30 and 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning, roughly eight hours after the two were discovered missing from the jail, patrons at a nearby IHOP called police to report that the suspects had entered the diner and had ordered breakfast. Officers quickly arrived at the IHOP roughly 10 miles away, arrested the escapees, and returned them to jail.
Sheriff Gabe Morgan praised the late-night diners who aided law enforcement in locating the suspects. "I’m thankful for the citizens who observed Garza and Nemo at the IHOP and notified law enforcement. It reinforces what we always say 'see something, say something,'" Morgan said.
Though alerts described the missing prisoners as possibly "dangerous," Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew stated in a press conference on Tuesday that the threat they posed to the community had been relatively minor. "I don't think that we were dealing with, like, menacing individuals," Drew said. "What we had was two individuals that were able to escape from the jail facility."
Jail officials and engineers are now making plans to fortify the building against a similar jail break but did not comment further on the exact weaknesses of the building, citing security concerns.
Both Garza and Nemo had been residing at the facility for several months before the alleged escape, awaiting adjudication for a string of nonviolent charges. Nemo was first booked into custody in October on charges of credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court, and probation violation. Garza was arrested in December and charged with contempt of court, probation violations, and failure to appear.
Additional charges in connection to the escape are pending, the sheriff's office said.
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