Two escaped inmates from the Wynne Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice incited an aggressive manhunt yesterday on the western side of Interstate 45.
Law enforcement officials from the Huntsville Police Department, Walker County Sheriff’s Office, Office of the Inspector General, Texas Department of Public Safety and University Police Department established a parameter of roadblocks from Wal-Mart to the Ella Smither overpass and surrounding areas after this scene unfolded:
Inmates John Ray Falk Jr., 40, and Jerry Duane Martin, 37, were working in a field with approximately 70 other inmates when they were able to overpower two correctional officers and acquire their weapons, according to TDCJ officials.
Susan Canfield, a 59-year-old correctional officer, attempted to pursue the inmates on horseback as they retreated to a city office and stole a pickup truck.
Canfield was struck by the pickup as the inmates attempted to flee and ultimately died from her injuries.
The inmates abandoned the truck and proceeded to steal another vehicle.
Falk was apprehended at 11 a.m. near Wal-Mart after law enforcement officials were able to immobilize the vehicle with gunfire; Martin fled into the wooded area south of Wal-Mart at that time. enforcement officials were able to immobilize the vehicle with gunfire; Martin fled into the wooded area south of Wal-Mart at that time.
Officials said they apprehended the second inmate at 1:40 p.m. after an “extensive manhunt.”
As law enforcement officials were tracking the inmates on the west side of Huntsville, schools on the east side were making arrangements to protect students and staff.
Public Information Officer of the Huntsville Independent School district Emily deMilliano announced during the day that HISD schools were in lock-down; many local day care facilities followed suit.
Sam Houston State University Police Chief Dennis Culak said that the city of Huntsville contacted him and requested the presence of additional officers to assist law enforcement with various roadblocks.
Culak said he notified Dr. Gaertner immediately and they discussed the situation.
“[Dr. Gaertner] advised me to contact him if the inmates started moving towards campus,” Culak said. “We also thought it would be appropriate to send out an email to all university account users.”
Students, faculty and staff members were subsequently sent two emails.
In the first email at 12:16 p.m.- which initially informed users of the circumstances – Culak said, “there is no evidence to substantiate that the escapees are near campus. However, we request that you proceed with caution, and avoid the areas where the manhunt is being conducted.”
The second email at 2:36 p.m. was sent to let users know that both inmates were in custody of police and traffic on the west side of Huntsville “should be resuming normal activity shortly.”
The Raven’s Nest Golf Course, which is owned and operated by the university, was in close proximity to the manhunt. Paul Kopecky, an assistant for the course, said players started to return to the pro shop after hearing gunshots in the wooded area north of the course.
As a precaution, Kopecky and other pro shop employees closed the course at approximately 11:30 a.m. and started issuing rain checks to the golfers.
He said an hour and a half later, law enforcement officials called the course and requested that it be closed because of the manhunt.
Kopecky said that this was not he first time the golf course has experienced a run in with an escaped inmate. He said that an escapee from the adjacent hospital stole a golf cart and attempted to flee last spring.
A player ran after the cart to retrieve his clubs and the inmate was soon apprehended.
TDCJ officials said that Martin was serving a “50-year sentence for two counts of attempted capital murder out of Colin County.”
Officials also said Falk was serving “a life sentence for murder with a deadly weapon out of Matagorda County.”
Investigators said they had not yet determined which inmate took the life of Canfield.