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Forum staff reports, Published October 12 2012

AUDIO: Inmate who escaped from Cass County Courthouse found

FARGO – Sheriff Paul Laney said an investigation will be conducted to determine how an inmate escaped as he was being escorted to a transport van this morning at the Cass County Courthouse.

Francisco Ayala Jr., 25, was on the run for less than an hour before authorities found him hiding in an apartment house west of the courthouse at 1114 2nd Ave. S. and took him into custody at about 11:30 a.m., Laney said.

Ayala is jailed on Class A felony drug dealing charges and was scheduled for a hearing concern-ing his bail amount this morning, court records show. The pending charges were filed Aug. 28.

Laney said Ayala made a break from the deputy escorting him and “basically headed west of the courthouse at a full run.”

A citizen reported seeing Ayala running through the alley between Second and Third avenues in the 1100 block, Laney said.

Members of the High Plains Fugitive Task Force, including U.S. Marshals, knew that Ayala had ties to someone in the apartment where he was found, helping authorities quickly zero in on the unit, Laney said.

When authorities reached the apartment’s steps, they saw the door had been kicked in and then found Ayala hiding inside, he said.

Ayala gave up and didn’t struggle with the five officers who made entry into the apartment, Laney said. No weapons were found.

Laney said Ayala had his feet shackled and was in handcuffs before his escape, but when he was located by authorities, he wasn’t cuffed anymore.

“He obviously figured out a way, and my assessment or my assumption is he had this planned,” Laney said. “I don’t think this was an opportunistic moment.”

Fargo police quickly set up a perimeter just west of the courthouse after Ayala escaped, and several schools in the area were locked down to prevent anyone from entering.

“I think it certainly shows that we have the necessary tools and procedures in place to deal with these situations quickly and effectively,” Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said.

Laney said such an escape wouldn’t have happened if the secure area of the new courthouse addition had been open. It’s expected to be fully operational in two to three weeks.

“Right now, we’re still walking them out across the grass to get to the van, and that’s how it’s been operating for years, and that’s why we’ve been so excited about this new section,” he said.

Laney commended the law enforcement agencies involved for bringing the situation to a quick resolution.

“While we can’t stop somebody from trying to escape, he’s going right back to the county jail where he belongs, and the process worked,” he said.