LA VILLA, Texas – A guard said a group of inmates that escaped from a federal jail near the Mexican border earlier this week distracted him with a decoy then overpowered him.
"They were distracting me to put my guard down for a moment and it worked," Enrique Zepeda, 18, a guard at East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa told the San Antonio Express-News in a story published Friday.
Zepeda, who has worked at the privately-run jail for three months since graduating from high school, declined to comment on how the inmates — a former police officer facing drug charges and five alleged drug gang members — escaped.
A spokesman for Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services Inc., which owns and operates the jail, confirmed that Zepeda, who wasn't injured, and one other employee were put on paid administrative leave Thursday.
The San Antonio Express-News did not identify the other jail employee and LCS Corrections Services would not discuss either case.
No more prisoners were being sent to the East Hidalgo Detention Center pending a probe into how the inmates overpowered a guard, opened a power-controlled door and cut through several fences, which included an alarm-equipped electrical fence that apparently was not functioning and may have been turned off. No alarm was sounded.
U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Joe Magallan said tips and reports of sightings were streaming in, but so far nothing had proved substantive. Investigators were questioning relatives of the escapees and trolling fugitives' known hangouts.
Detectives believe the fugitives split up and were probably picked up in a vehicle on the highway that runs in front of the jail.
LeBlanc offered a $25,000 reward was for information leading to the capture of 41-year-old Francisco Meza-Rojas, the former McAllen police officer.
Rojas' trial on federal drug trafficking charges was scheduled to begin Oct. 3. The other escapees were illegal immigrants from Mexico alleged to be members of Raza Unida, a violent drug gang.