Police: Both escaped inmates now back in custody

UPDATE: Lionel Clah was brought into police custody Saturday afternoon

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Both men who escaped from state corrections custody in southeast New Mexico have now been captured in Albuquerque.

Saturday afternoon, Albuquerque Police arrested Lionel Clah, 29, near Montgomery and Morris. He is serving time for armed robbery with a deadly weapon.

Probation and parole officers spotted convicted killer Joseph Cruz near University and Central on Friday and then chased Cruz on foot. He was quickly taken down, ending two days on the run.

Even after being taken down, Cruz was in good spirits when he went on camera. He said, “Nobody helped me that’s why I got busted, if I would have had help I would have been gcruz posterone.”

When asked how he got out of his shackles, Cruz simply said, “I picked it. I picked the lock.”

Cruz’s sister was arrested Friday night as well. Olivia Cruz, 38, had an outstanding warrant for possession of a controlled substance. Police are still investigating if she had any involvement in her brother’s escape.

UNM and CNM issued a shelter-in-place Friday night as a precaution during the manhunt. Police urged residents to lock their cars and homes Friday night.

It all started on Wednesday night when Cruz and Clah escaped during transport between Roswell and Las Cruces. The two guards who were transporting the inmates are on administrative paid leave pending the investigation.

Inmate Descriptions: 

Joseph Cruz

  • Hispanic
  • Tan/light brown shirt
  • Blue jeans
  • Tennis shoes
  • Long sleeved jacket
  • Five-foot-five
  • Brown eyes and hair
  • Tattoos: “Alias” on the back of his neck, tribal symbol on ear and “13 Smiley” on right elbow

Lionel Clah

  • Native American
  • Red or maroon shirt with white design
  • Blue jeans
  • Medium size brown hoodie
  • Dark shoes/boots
  • Five-foot-eleven
  • Brown eyes
  • Black hair
  • Tattoos: Feather on left cheek and multiple tattoos on his arm.

The focus of the search was on Artesia, but on Thursday afternoon officials said the escapees were believed to be in Albuquerque.

Police said the pair should be considered extremely dangerous.

On Thursday night, police set up a perimeter in northwest Albuquerque as they searched for the escaped inmates near Coors and Sequoia.

Police say the suspects were spotted in the area, saying they were seen in a vehicle with a woman around 5:30 p.m. At some point, police say the inmates jumped out of the vehicle and ran into a neighborhood. However, a source tells KRQE News 13 it’s possible that Lionel Clah was the only suspect with the woman.

Law enforcement combed through streets and alleys from the Walmart on Coors near I-40 toward the river, searching neighborhoods, under cars and in backyards, warning residents to stay inside. Authorities finally broke down the search around 1 a.m. Friday morning.

The woman who was seen with Clah last night, according to police, was questioned and then released.

The New Mexico Corrections Department says the pair was being taken from Santa Fe to the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility when they escaped somewhere near Artesia. Police are now saying the escape looks like it was planned.

Police say Cruz and ClaNM escapee surveillence pich were seen on surveillance video at the Hawthorn Suites near Gibson and University at approximately 4:30 Thursday morning.

Authorities say the men were wearing white paper transport suits and were fully shackled when they escaped, but the pair are seen wearing normal clothes in the surveillance video.

State Police said they have some answers about how the two may have escaped but right now they would not release that information because it might have compromised the search. They also said there is no doubt the two received help in the incident.

Chief Pete Kassetas said, “We’re going to catch you at some point.  It’s going to be very uncomfortable for you if you’ve harbored these two individuals, especially with the Marshals Service on board… so before we come to you, come to us.”

Cruz and Clah were reported missing after the transport van arrived at the Correctional Facility in Las Cruces around 1 a.m., carrying three inmates instead of five. State officials said the officers running the transport were experienced and assigned exclusively to that transport unit.

Cruz is a convicted murderer. He stabbed a man to death over drugs in Raton.

Last year, KRQE News 13 highlighted Cruz in a special assignment report because he managed to create a Facebook page, which is against the rules.

Clah shot at law enforcement near Farmington the last time he was on the run. In 2007, he led deputies on a high speed chase and shot at them wounding one of them, and another State Police officer was grazed by a bullet.

Watch the full news conferences about the escaped inmates below: 

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