Thursday's massive manhunt started at the County Jail Annex. Sheriff David Duke says the four escapees were present for breakfast, between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Deputies noticed the men were missing at the 7 a.m. shift change.
Sheriff Duke says they escaped through the top bars of the jail, then through a vent and on to the roof. The men stole a white Ford F-150 pick up from near-by Star Street to aid their escape. Deputies immediately knew the severity of the situation.
"These guys are looking at some time," said Duke at an impromptu, Thursday-morning press conference, "so, at this point, we are considering them dangerous."
Multiple law enforcement agencies launched a massive manhunt. Wichita County Sheriff's Deputies were assisted by the Wichita Falls Police Department, Texas Rangers, the Texas Department of Public Safety, a unit from Allred Prison with dogs, and the Archer, Clay and Montague County Sheriff's offices.
Today's events underscore serious concern over the facilities available to the Wichita County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Duke is calling this a well-planned event and says the inmates took advantage of the construction of the facility.
"Remember this is a cage-type jail inside a warehouse," Duke said. "So, it's not the exact type of jail we desire. But, this is what we have to work with."
The county is also experiencing jail overcrowding and is spending thousands to house inmates elsewhere. County Commissioners recently shelled out nearly $500-thousand to repair a leaky roof at the County Courthouse, which houses the main jail facility.
Plans are being considered for a possible new jail facility. That new facility could be built on the old Patterson Downtown Auto Mall site. Commissioners are waiting on environmental testing results to determine if that project is possible.