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2 Correctional Officers On Paid Leave After Prisoner Escapes RI Jail

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) -- The search for a man who escaped a Rhode Island maximum-security jail Saturday night now spans two states and police say that man, charged in the theft of 16 guns from a Worcester armory in 2015, is still on the run and considered dangerous.

Now, authorities say two correctional officers at that jail are on leave as they investigate how the prisoner got out.

VIEW: Wanted Poster From U.S. Marshals

Investigators say James Morales, 35, made a daring escape from the Wyatt Correctional Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island Saturday. They believe he is now somewhere in Massachusetts.

James Morales
James Morales (Image credit: Mass. State Police)

Warden Daniel Martin said Morales escaped around 7 p.m. Saturday night, but wasn't discovered to be missing until over three hours later.

Martin said it was believed that Morales was in the prison's recreation yard, where he climbed onto the top of a basketball hoop, pulled himself onto the backboard, used something to cut through fencing, climbed onto the prison's roof, and went through several layers of razor wire to get to a place where he could climb down the side of the building.

Martin said two correctional officers were placed on paid leave pending an investigation. The prison remains on lockdown as officials review all security procedures.

"He escaped in an area where there is a fence separating the detention center's property from some railroad tracks," said Massachusetts State Police spokesperson Dave Procopio. "He got over that fence somehow, and then fled along the railroad tracks."

Central Falls Mayor James Diossa says the incident is "unacceptable."

"We are currently awaiting a full briefing on what has occurred in order to address the current situation as well as to ensure that this never happens again," Mayor Diossa said in a statement.

Investigators picked up Morales's track in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where they say he stole a Chevrolet Lumina from the parking lot of a BK Mart around 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

James Morales
Wanted Poster for James Morales (Image from U.S. Marshals)

A K-9 unit picked up his scent, tracking him to a roadway under a Route 95 overpass. There, they found discarded prison clothing covered in blood--leading them to believe he was injured in his escape.

The stolen car was found in Framingham on Sunday.

Morales is a former Army Reservist who is also facing child rape charges.

In 2015, the FBI says he stole six assault rifles and 10 handguns from the Lincoln Stoddard Army Reserve Center in Worcester.

James Morales tattoos
James Morales eagle tattoo. (Image credit: Mass. State Police)

Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for Morales, described as a 6-foot, 175-lb. man with a shaved head and large eagle tattoo on the left side of his neck. They say if you see him, do not approach him--call 911 immediately.

"It's not too often we have escapees from these type of facilities," Procopio said. "He definitely could be dangerous."

Morales had a court date scheduled for this Friday related to that Worcester weapons theft.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kim Tunnicliffe reports

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