A manhunt is underway for the inmate who escaped from a Merced County jail Tuesday morning by tunneling out of the facility.
The escape from the John Latoracca Correctional Facility in El Nido has been identified as Zachary William Johnson, 32, of Morgan Hill.
Johnson’s disappearance was noticed around 7 a.m. when correctional officers were conducting a routine headcount of the dorms. When the count came up one short an inspection of the building was initiated and guards discovered a hole had been made in the ceiling above a shower, said facility spokesperson Correctional Officer Antoinette Murillo.
Johnson was last seen in the facility at 6 a.m.
Guards scoured the area for Johnson and found a blanket had been tossed over the razor wire perimeter fence.
The preliminary investigation suggests Johnson had assistance from someone on the outside in his escape, but authorities did not elaborate on what led to the supposition.
Johnson was likely injured during his bid for freedom based on evidence discovered near the perimeter fence, Murillo said.
Johnson was in custody on several counts of felony evading, felony hit and run, stalking, narcotics violations and resisting arrest.
Johnson stands 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. He has short blond hair and blue eyes. He sports several tattoos, including “South Side” on his stomach and a trash can on his right arm.
Before Tuesday the last successful escape from John Latoracca Correctional Facility was in February 2009. An attempt was made in April 2010, but the inmate was captured in the rafters of the building.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Johnson is asked to call the Merced County Sheriff’s Department at 385-7445.