By Gina Smith
May 14, 2012
It is a testament to our communities when a prisoner from the Lincoln County Detention Center in Pioche chooses to scale three sets of razor-wired fences to escape and is caught just hours later 25 miles away in Caliente.
Johnny Belcher had just been released out of the Elko County Jail, and was soon arrested in Lincoln County for possession of illegal drugs. He is also wanted out of Arizona by the Federal Agencies and has an extensive criminal history.
He escaped from the detention center in Pioche the evening of Friday, May 4th.
A reverse 911 was immediately activated to alert the public to lock doors, not leave keys in cars, and to be on the lookout with a brief description of the inmate. Road blocks were put in place in Panaca and Caliente. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, State Parks, LCSO Reserve Officer, and Nevada Department of Corrections (Pioche Camp and Ely) were called out for assistance. Tracking dogs were also sent out to aid in the search efforts.
After reports that the injured and bleeding inmate was picked up by an out-of-state driver and taken to the hospital in Caliente, the search was concentrated in that location.
Neighbors called neighbors to alert and offer support. Tips were called into the sheriff’s office. Jerry’s Sinclair posted the escapee’s picture on the front door of the convenience store.
Belcher arrived at the Sinclair and saw his picture late Friday night as the station was preparing to close for the evening. He thought twice of going in and wandered outside trying to find a ride.
Though it is not recommended by law enforcement to approach a dangerous individual, several people aided in detaining the inmate at the gas station until authorities arrived to capture, while others secured the store door shut to prevent him from coming inside.
Reverse 911 was activated again to report the inmate was captured.
Jerry’s Sinclair employee Cassandra Towery was there during those tense moments. “Everyone came together when it really mattered,” she said.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said, “The community was great. Many people called in tips and were great in helping any way possible.”
He added, “This was a bad situation but with a positive outcome. Thanks to all the citizens who helped and to the other agencies for their assistance.”