Authorities search for La Plata County jail escapee
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FARMINGTON, N.M. – The urgent search continues for a man who police say shot an officer Friday night in Farmington less than two weeks after he escaped from a Four Corners jail.
Agencies across multiple states are on high alert – including US Marshals, for 22-year-old Elias Buck.
Law enforcement officials Sunday said this is one of the most dangerous situations for them and anyone. La Plata County jail officials say Buck escaped from there more than a week ago.
Now that he’s shot an officer, Farmington police said they can’t catch him soon enough.
"It is absolutely unacceptable and we need all hands on deck to catch this guy and get him off the streets,” said Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe.
Hebbe described a tense search Friday night – SWAT teams going door to door looking for someone they believe wouldn’t hesitate to shoot.
“It was extremely high risk. You had somebody that already was desperate enough that they shot a police officer, so you know they’re going to feel even more desperation now to get away.”
Police say Buck shot Farmington officer Joseph Barreto at point blank range in the arm around 10:30 p.m. Friday night. Barreto was looking for a suspected drunk driver – when he walked up to two people, Buck and his girlfriend, Victoria "Rossi" Hernandez.
Barreto is recovering from surgery – but could have a long term injury. Meanwhile, KOB 4 learned Buck escaped from a Colorado jail back on Dec. 27th. A spokesperson declined the station’s request for an interview but said Buck, at some point, said he "will not go back to jail."
“It is frustrating and disappointing, especially because it appears that that was the second escape this fall from that jail facility,” said Hebbe “He gets out. He winds up shooting our officer.”
Hebbe believes there are multiple people who have helped Buck avoid arrest.
“This person almost killed our police officer. He’s a 25-year-old kid. He has a wife and a kid. It’s absolutely ridiculous for people to be helping somebody who is clearly that dangerous and who clearly could cause the death of another officer under other circumstances.”
He said Barreto is in good spirits, and his fellow officers are hanging in there.
“This isn’t something that happens up here very often. We haven’t had an officer shot in the line of duty in maybe 30 years. It will take a while for the officers to process it.”
If you know anything about where Buck may be, or anything else that could help law enforcement, you can call your local police.
The La Plata County Colorado Sheriff’s Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information. But — because he’s considered dangerous, police definitely do not want anyone approaching him. If you see him, call 911 instead.