BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Detention officers did not follow sheriff's policy when an inmate being transported to a dental appointment overpowered his guard, escaped, and killed a man before being fatally shot by police, a South Texas sheriff said Friday.
Two guards are supposed to transport an inmate, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said during a news conference, but only one was available Thursday to take Miguel Garcia, 38, to his appointment.
Authorities say Garcia fashioned a toothbrush into a weapon and brought it into the sheriff's vehicle, The Brownsville Herald reported. Authorities allege that Garcia somehow undid his shackles and slashed the guard in the neck when they arrived at the dental office in Brownsville, near the Mexico border. Garcia then allegedly took the guard's handgun and fled.
He swam across a creek to a residential neighborhood where he entered a nearby home and "executed" Mario Martinez, 56, in front of his wife, Brownsville police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said at the news conference.
"He just barged in and took the family by surprise," Rodriguez said.
Garcia took the family's car, authorities say, and was chased by Brownsville police, state troopers and county constables. The chase ended in an industrial park in San Benito, northwest of Brownsville, and Garcia was shot in an exchange of gunfire. He later died at a hospital.
The guard was hospitalized Friday in stable condition.
Rodriguez said there were early reports that Garcia also took an assault-style rifle from the guard but said that wasn't true.
Lucio said sheriff's officials will review department procedures to see what changes are needed to avoid such an escape from happening again. He'll likely seek additional funding from Cameron County commissioners to boost jail staff, he said.
"We do the best we can, OK?" he said.
It wasn't clear what type of weapon Garcia had obtained before getting into the sheriff's vehicle, and authorities declined to release other details, citing the ongoing investigation.
He was being held in the county jail on a burglary charge, but Lucio said Garcia had been arrested on other occasions, including for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
"He's not a stranger to law enforcement," Lucio said.
Added Rodriguez, "This man was on a rampage yesterday. He was terrorizing the community and it had to stop."