Police expand hunt for escaped Florida inmate

GRAPEVINE (CBSDFW.COM) - A Miami-Dade County police officer transporting a suspect back to Nevada was stabbed four times outside of a Walmart store in Grapevine late Monday night, prompting an extensive search for the man who escaped police on foot. That manhunt is still taking place Tuesday morning.

Alberto Morales was being transported by officers to Las Vegas after a court appearance in Miami, the Grapevine Police Department said. At the end of a flight into Houston, the suspect began to act strangely — acting disruptive and banging his head against the seat — and officers thought it would be best to get the 42-year-old prisoner off of the plane.

The two officers rented a car and started driving back to Nevada, about 1,400 miles away, passing through the DFW area.

The officers and the suspect stopped at a Walmart store located at the intersection of Highway 114 and Ira E. Woods Avenue, where one officer went inside to get something. The suspect then used a sharp object and stabbed the other officer three times in the back and one time in the chest. Police believe that Morales was wearing eyeglasses, but broke them and used the earpiece as a weapon.

Morales then escaped on foot, though authorities stated that he was shackled. They are not sure if or how he became freed from his handcuffs.

Police said that Morales has a history of aggravated sexual assault, assault, kidnapping and burglary.

The injured officer was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas and sent into surgery around 5:00 a.m. after being listed in critical condition, according to police who spoke with CBS Miami. He was later identified as Det. Jamie Pardenas, a 28-year police veteran. Miami-Dade County police director J.D. Patterson said that Pardenas is now in serious, but stable condition. The other police escort was seven-year police veteran Det. David Guerrero.

An exhaustive manhunt was launched almost immediately as police officers on the ground and in the air scoured nearby businesses and warehouses in the heavily-commercial district, which also includes many roads under construction. Helicopters from the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety have assisted in the search, which is no longer contained to just Grapevine. Officers from Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake, Keller and DFW International Airport all participated in the manhunt.

Morales has been described as 5 feet 7 inches tall and 175 pounds, according to Florida records. He was last seen wearing a light-colored hoodie and dark shorts. He is considered dangerous, and police have warned citizens not to confront the suspect. He has no ties in the area and could be acting in desperation. Anyone with information about this case is told to contact the Grapevine Police Department right away.

"This is pretty unusual for the City of Grapevine," said Sgt. Robert Eberling with the Grapevine Police Department.

"We're not evacuating any facilities at this point," Eberling said, "just want to stress to everyone out there that they remain cautious and, if anything looks out of the ordinary or suspicious, to contact the police department so we can arrive on the scene and investigate."

"If he's still on foot," Eberling added, "then chances are he hasn't been able to get very far."

Eberling later explained that authorities were widening their net to now include the entire DFW area in the search for Morales. "If you know of any co-workers that live in Grapevine that haven't arrived to work," Eberling said, "please call us so we can investigate that and check on their welfare."

Meanwhile, the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District is taking precautions to ensure the safety of students and staff members. "Police have increased patrols around our schools and we will have an increased presence of police and district officials. School doors will remain locked as part of our standard safety procedures," the district said in a statement. They added that rain on Tuesday will be helpful, as younger children will be having recess indoors.

"He needs to be treated with extreme caution. He's extremely dangerous," Eberling said. "He has a lengthy violent criminal history and him going to the extent that he did in order to get free this morning would just go to show you that he's prepared to do anything."

Alberto Morales

The Texas Department of Public Safety added Morales to the state's Most Wanted list on Tuesday, with a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. "It's very significant," Eberling explained. "Because of the nature of the crimes that he's committed, the state feels that he's a very serious offender, extremely violent, and he needs to be apprehended as soon as possible."

The charges for Monday's incident alone include attempted murder, aggravated assault on a police officer and escaping from police custody.


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