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Police Chief: Escapee 'No Stranger to Law Enforcement'

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BROWNSVILLE - The Cameron County Sheriff's Office and the Brownsville Police Department held a joint press conference about Thursday's inmate escape and shooting Friday morning.

Authorities said Michael Diaz Garcia escaped custody during a medical transport, ran into a Brownsville home, fatally shot a homeowner and stole a vehicle. Several law enforcement agencies responded. A chase ended in San Benito, where Diaz and law enforcement officers exchanged gunfire.

Diaz later died from his injuries.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned policy wasn't followed when the inmate was being transferred.

(Related Story: Escaped Inmate Dead after Cameron Co. Shooting)

"This was a very complex scene," said Brownsville Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio spoke during the press conference. The Brownsville police chief said Diaz was arrested in Brownsville for burglary.

"He's no stranger to law enforcement," said the police chief.

Lucio added Diaz faced several charges throughout the year and was being held on an ICE detainer.

According to the sheriff, it's not yet known how Diaz opened his handcuffs. The inmate was scheduled for a dentist visit at a clinic on the 3700 block of Boca Chica Boulevard.

The transporting jailer opened the van door to let him out. Diaz then attacked him with a shank, stabbing his neck.

Lucio said the jailer, identified as Jose Tella, has about 10 years’ experience and was working alone on Thursday. He is in stable condition.

The sheriff explained two guards are required when transporting inmates for medical treatment. 

Diaz took off on foot and disposed of his jail clothes. He crossed the resaca into a nearby neighborhood on Fruitdale Drive.

During the press conference, the Brownsville police chief said Diaz didn't break into the home of Mario Alfredo Martinez.

(Related Story: Brownsville Neighborhood Shocked After Man Shot, Killed by Inmate)

"He just happened to find the right house for him with the door unlocked," said Rodriguez.

The police chief said the 57-year-old homeowner tried to calm the escaped inmate in defense of his family, but he was shot. Rodriguez said the homeowner died in front of his wife.

The sheriff and police chief expressed their condolences to Martinez's family.

Rodriguez said at one point, a Brownsville police officer was shot at and returned fire. He added that officer is on administrative leave, as the investigation into the shooting is underway.

Law enforcement officers from Brownsville police, San Benito police, DPS, Cameron County sheriff's and Cameron County Constables Pct. 3 and Pct. 5 were at the scene.

The police chief said the investigation into the escape and shooting will take several weeks, if not months.

Check back for updates.

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