Fugitive James Morales Captured In Somerville

SOMERVILLE (CBS) — The fugitive who escaped from a Rhode Island correctional facility on New Year’s Eve was captured by State Police after he allegedly tried rob two banks on Thursday.

James Morales, 35, who had been on the run for five days since he escaped Wyatt Correctional Facility, was arrested in Somerville Thursday afternoon.

State Police said Morales tried to rob a Bank of America in Cambridge’s Central Square Thursday morning. Troopers were in the area of McGrath Highway and Broadway in Somerville for a report of a second attempted bank robbery when they captured him.

Related: Trooper Merrick On Chase, Arrest

According to State Police, Trooper Joseph Merrick spotted Morales on Mystic Avenue and was able to chase him down and take him into custody as he tried to hop a fence in the Foss Park neighborhood.

“After a foot chase, a couple fences, I was able to get him into custody with the help of two Somerville detectives,” Trooper Merrick said. “It’s a team effort so I am glad I could help out.”

Morales was taken to the Medford State Police Barracks to be booked and will appear in federal court in Providence on Friday. The U.S. Marshals say Morales will not return to the Central Falls facility he escaped from.

WBZ-TV’s Louisa Moller reports

Trooper Merrick said Morales did not say anything when he was taken into custody. “After the foot chase he was exhausted, so it was not much of a fight,” Merrick said.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone thanked police after the arrest.

“We are just grateful for all the law enforcement agencies local, state and federal for putting themselves on the line to capture a very dangerous person,” Mayor Curtatone said.

Residents of the neighborhood witnessed the arrest.

“I heard a lot of yelling in these backyards,” said Elio Lorusso. “Get down on your knees and get your hands up.”

“I mean, it’s pretty crazy. You don’t think this stuff can’t happen right here in your neighborhood,” Michael Basu said.

The FBI released several surveillance images of the suspect in the Cambridge attempted bank robbery about three hours before Morales was caught.

Surveillance image of the bank robbery suspect, who State Police say is "probably" escaped inmate James Morales. (FBI)

Surveillance image of the bank robbery suspect, who State Police say is “probably” escaped inmate James Morales. (FBI)

The Bank of America in Central Square was robbed at 7:27 a.m., Cambridge Police said. They said a note was passed, but the suspect did not get away with any money.

The robbery suspect was described as a black man about 5’10” with a mustache, who was wearing a black jacket, gray sweatshirt, black knit cap, and black sneakers, matching Morales’ description.

VIEW: Wanted Poster For James Morales From U.S. Marshals

Hours after the attempted robbery, police searched several locations in Cambridge near the Alewife MBTA stop Thursday afternoon after a possible spotting of Morales.

The search utilized K-9 units, and included marshy areas near the T stop.

Morales escaped from Wyatt Correctional Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island around 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, though he wasn’t discovered missing until around 10:30 p.m. Two correctional officers have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation into the incident, the facility’s warden, Daniel Martin, said.

James Morales (Image credit: Mass. State Police)

James Morales (Image credit: Mass. State Police)

Warden Martin said Morales climbed onto the top of a basketball hoop in the facility’s recreation yard, used a tool 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.

A recreation yard at Wyatt Correctional Facility, the jail James Morales escaped from on New Year's Eve. (WBZ-TV)

A recreation yard at Wyatt Correctional Facility, the jail James Morales escaped from on New Year’s Eve. (WBZ-TV)

Police say he then followed nearby train tracks to Attleboro, Massachusetts, where they said he stole a car from a store parking lot and ditched it in Framingham.

The car police said Morales stole was found in Framingham with blood, trash, and clothing inside, and with the Rhode Island plates replaced with Massachusetts ones taken from an apartment complex along Route 9.

In Framingham Saturday night, Irving Street resident Vanessa Lugo said Morales showed up at her back door on New Year’s Eve, hours after he broke free from prison. She didn’t know who he was and didn’t answer the door, later learning he was likely looking for the woman who lives upstairs.

Before being imprisoned at the Rhode Island facility, Morales was facing charges that he raped an 8-year-old girl in Cambridge.

While out on bail on that charge, the FBI says, he stole 10 assault rifles and six handguns from a Worcester armory in 2015.

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