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1 Jail Escapee Surrenders in Orange County

Times Staff Writer

Eleazar Gonzales, one of four inmates who escaped from the Orange County Jail on Sunday night, walked into the Santa Ana police station on Thanksgiving night and surrendered, officials said.

“He came in with his family--his daughter and his mom and dad,” Santa Ana Police Lt. Greg Cooper said. “The desk officer recognized him and there was a gentleman’s nod or smile between them and the officer took him into custody.”

After he surrendered at 7:25 p.m., Orange County sheriff’s deputies returned Gonzales to jail, where he was being questioned by investigators Thursday night, Lt. Tom Conner said.

The three other fugitives were still at large Thursday night, Conner said.

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Gonzales “just said he wanted to surrender and turn himself in,” Cooper said. “He knew we knew who he was. . . . He looked fine and he was very cooperative. It was a very uneventful surrender. Surrenders normally are.”

Considered Most Dangerous

Gonzales, 20, who was considered the most dangerous of the four escapees, was being held on murder charges in connection with a gang-related shooting in Santa Ana on July 25, when he allegedly ambushed Juan Cedilla Picon, 20, as he stood in an alley off West McFadden Avenue.

Gonzales disappeared after the shooting but was tracked to Mexicali, Mexico, before being arrested in Imperial County on Oct. 4.

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He and three other inmates escaped Sunday night by cutting a hole in security fencing around a rooftop recreation area and lowering themselves with a sheet off the roof of the four-story building. A fifth inmate suffered a broken leg during the escape and was quickly recaptured.

Along with the interrogation, deputies took Gonzales to a local hospital Thursday night for treatment of injuries he suffered during the escape.

Conner would not elaborate on the injuries, but Cooper said it appeared that Gonzales may have suffered a broken arm.

“He was sore there, it looked swollen and he said it hurt when we went to search him,” Cooper said. “It probably happened when he bailed off the roof.”

Authorities discovered the jailbreak shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday, when a Santa Ana resident reported seeing a man in an orange jail jumpsuit about a block from the jail at Flower and 6th streets.

Earlier this week, Sheriff’s Lt. Richard J. Olson said it appeared that Gonzales had separated from the other three inmates.

Shortly after Sunday’s escape, three of the escapees apparently talked a local resident into giving them a ride to Garden Grove, where they escaped in his car.

Olson said the three inmates approached the man at 8:15 p.m. as he was working on his car at 2949 N. Bristol St. in Santa Ana. The men, who had shed their jail jumpsuits, claimed one of them had suffered a heart attack and needed to be rushed to the hospital.

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Once inside the car, the men instructed the driver where to go and eventually left him on a curb in Garden Grove, Olson said.

The victim later identified the escapees from photos as Richard Fluharty, 26, charged with burglary; Anthony Gianetti, 35, charged with robbery, and Steven Wilson, 26, charged with robbery, kidnaping, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary, Olson said.

Police are still searching for the car, a 1986 reddish-orange Ford Escort with South Dakota license plates, number 49R298.

The main jail in Santa Ana is the county’s only maximum-security facility. It houses about 1,400 inmates. There were 68 inmates on the roof when Sunday’s escape took place.

When the inmates broke out, one of the two deputies guarding the prisoners had been called away from his post, county officials said earlier this week.


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