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Officials set up a road block on Northbound US 285 north of Artesia Thursday after two inmates escaped Wednesday night. (Terresa Lemon / Artesia Daily Press)

Officials set up a road block on Northbound US 285 north of Artesia Thursday after two inmates escaped Wednesday night. (Terresa Lemon / Artesia Daily Press)

Updated: 3:50 pm

The Albuquerque Journal reports the two escaped inmates were spotted in Albuquerque around 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Schools in Artesia that were under lock down allowed parents to pick up their children as normal as school was dismissed this afternoon.


 

Updated: 12:55 pm

In relation to the search for the missing inmates, the following schools are currently under lockdown: Yucca Elementary, Roselawn Elementary, Park Junior High, and Artesia Head Start. The Artesia Public Schools stress the lockdowns are a precautionary measure only.


 

Artesia Police Department officers assist the New Mexico State Police, SWAT and other agents in search of two escaped inmates.

Artesia Police Department officers assist the New Mexico State Police, SWAT and other agents in search of two escaped inmates.

Updated: 12:50pm

Artesia Police Department officers assist the New Mexico State Police, SWAT and other agents in investigating a home in the area of Roselawn and Cannon avenues late this morning in connection with the Wednesday night escape in Artesia of inmates Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah during a prison transport.

The officers dispersed soon after. Cmdr. Lindell Smith reports the APD is working closely with the NMSP and New Mexico Department of Corrections to follow up on all leads. Cruz and Clah are considered armed and dangerous, and citizens are urged not to approach them but rather call 911 immediately if they are spotted.

Anyone with potential information regarding their whereabouts is asked to call the NMSP Roswell office at 622-7200. Motorists are also urged not to pick up hitchhikers and to be aware a roadblock has been established between Artesia and Roswell.


Joseph Cruz

Joseph Cruz

 

The New Mexico State Police is investigating the escape of two violent prisoners in the Artesia area.  The prisoners escaped  Wednesday night from a prisoner transport van during a New Mexico Department of Corrections prisoner transport from the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe to the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility near Las Cruces.

The NMSP is warning citizens residing in the Artesia and Roswell area or along major roadways in the area such as U.S. 285 and U.S. 82 to lock their doors and not to pick up hitchhikers.

The two prisoners, identified as Lionel Clah and Joseph Cruz, are considered armed and dangerous.

Cruz, 32, is described as a Hispanic male, 5’5″, weighing 165 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair, and has the following tattoos: upper left arm: “LIF” covered by skulls; neck: “ALIAS” (back of neck); chest: dragon; right wrist: “THREE DOTS;” right ear: tribal; right elbow: “13 SMILEY.”

Cruz has been serving a life sentence for first-degree murder since 2007 after fatally stabbing another man over drugs in Raton. He was also charged with attempted first-degree murder and child abuse.

Clah, 29, described as a Native American male, 5’11”, weighing 175 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair, has the following tattoos: left arm: “GRIM TIPPER,” “RIP TALKS SKULL SMOKE 368 RIP JOH” with tombstone; right hand: SMILIE FACE; right arm: “SHANNA NATIVE;” neck: “SHIPROCK NATIVE;” chest: “CLAH DEMON” with lock; left wrist: “LARISSA;” right fingers: “LRC;” right wrist: “MARIA.”

Clah was convicted in 2009 of armed robbery and two counts of assault with intent to commit a violent felony upon a peace officer.

“These prisoners should be considered dangerous, and the public should use caution,” said Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo of the NMSP in a release.

The Artesia Police Department is assisting the NMSP, NMDOC and other agencies in the search.

Lionell Clark

Lionel Clah

“APD continues to follow up on leads that are called into our dispatch center,” Cmdr. Lindell Smith of the APD said this morning. “Every one of them is to be considered, and we will continue to do this until the two are found. We are also prepared to work closely with the NMSP and NMDOC in the search for the two.”

Motorists should be aware a roadblock has reportedly been established between Artesia and Roswell. Citizens are urged to use action and to call the NMSP Roswell office at 622-7200 with any information as to the whereabouts of Cruz and Clah. Anyone spotting subjects they believe to be the two escaped inmates should not approach them, Smith urges, but should call 911 immediately.

Clah and Cruz were last accounted for at approximately 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Artesia area during a prisoner transport. They were wearing white prisoner jumpsuits and were both bound by shackles.
The details of the escape are still under investigation and no further information is available regarding the escape at this time.