Inmate escaped southern Minnesota holding cell after court hearing

It happened at the Watonwan County Courthouse.
Publish date:
Rene Alfredo Garza

A southern Minnesota man is back in custody after escaping from a holding cell on Tuesday. 

According to charging documents, Rene Alfredo Garza, 36, of St. James, was able to escape custody at the Watonwan County Courthouse after he was brought to the courtroom regarding a felony charge of fleeing police in a motor vehicle. 

How did he escape?

Sheriff Jared Bergeman removed Garza's handcuffs when it was his turn for a hearing, and after the hearing concluded the sheriff guided Garza back to a holding cell where he was placed without handcuffs. 

A short time later, Sheriff Bergeman opened the cell, which is adjacent to the courtroom, and Garza was gone. 

Two inmates in the holding cell with Garza were questioned but both said they weren't sure how Garza got out. 

Four minutes later an investigator spotted him walking through a church parking lot. He had changed his clothes and was wearing a face mask, and when the officer told him to stop he took off running. 

St. James police officers tracked him down not long after and arrested him, but not without incident as Garza was moving toward an officer before a fellow cop tackled him and cuffed him. 

Garza has been charged with felony escaping custody and a misdemeanor for fleeing police. 

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