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Suspect Escapes From Police Jail by Cutting Hole in Wall

June 10, 2005|Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writer

Officers in the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street Division were trying to figure out how a 20-year-old robbery suspect cut a hole through a wall and escaped through a fire exit Thursday.

The escape, which police said was the station's first, occurred early Thursday after officers had placed the man in a holding cell down the hall from the watch commander's office.

The suspect had been arrested by two officers about 1:30 a.m. They brought him to the station about 1:45 a.m. and put him in the cell while they checked his background, Sgt. Art Duran said.

The last time anyone saw the man in the cell was at 2:46 a.m. Six minutes later, the arresting officers "went back to retrieve him and saw this hole," Duran said.

The opening was a very rough, 15-by-9-inch hole near the floor. The suspect apparently had cut or torn through the drywall and metal-mesh security screen, crawled through it and slipped out a fire exit.

A black trash can had been pulled in front of the hole, concealing it from outside view.

Duran said police did not know how the hole was made.

The man had been searched before being placed in the cell and was not believed to have weapons or tools, he said.

Broken pieces of drywall, plaster and plaster dust were piled under the hole, and the insulation had been torn away. The sheet of metal mesh, which was sandwiched within the drywall, had been bent upward. It appeared to have been ripped from bolts that anchored it to metal studs, said Lt. Paul Vernon, a police spokesman.

The 77th Street station was built in 1997. Older LAPD stations have sheet metal-lined walls, but the department's two newest facilities have cinder-block holding cells, Vernon said.

He added, however, that all 19 LAPD stations were being inspected because of the escape.

Officials have not confirmed the man's identity, but police said he was a homeless man known by the nickname "Junior" who often loiters near the intersection of McKinley and Florence avenues.

He is a suspect in a May 29 robbery in the 77th Division's area in which the victim was threatened with a metal pipe, Duran said.

Police described the man as 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighing 160 pounds with a shaved head and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing an orange, long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans, and had a scrape on his right cheek, they said.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call police at (213) 485-4164.

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