State troopers catch escaped inmate in Somerville foot chase

SOMERVILLE, MA (WHDH) - After five days on the run, the escape of convict James Morales ended in a wild foot chase that led him and a state trooper through backyards of Somerville homes Thursday afternoon.

The entire state of Massachusetts was on high alert after Morales escaped a detention center in Rhode Island last week, and trooper Joseph Merrick was ready to jump into action and put an end to a week-long manhunt. He was helped by fellow trooper Brendan Cain.

“At the beginning of the shift we were notified that the subject could be in the area, so myself and Cain along with the other troopers were in the area, we got the call that we were waiting for, the bank robbery,” Merrick said in a press conference held Thursday evening.

Earlier Thursday morning, a man matching Morales’ description tried to rob a Bank of America on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, sparking a widespread search of the area. According to officials, the suspect passed a note demanding cash at the Bank of America. Officials said he did not get any money before fleeing on foot.

“As I proceeded down Route 28, I saw the suspect which I believed to be the escapee from Rhode Island,” Merrick said.

The state trooper then described chasing Morales on foot, hopping over fences of Somerville homes along Wheatland Street. At one point the escapee hid under a porch, until Merrick saw him poke his head out.

“I believe after the foot chase he was exhausted, so, no, not much of a fight,” Merrick said. Two Somerville detectives helped Merrick get the fugitive into custody.

Trooper Brendan Cain commended the word of his colleague. “I mean he’s clearly an in-shape kid over here, just it was an all-around great job,” Cain said.

Cain added that it did not take long for Merrick to identify the subject – the large black tattoo on the fugitive’s neck gave his identity away.

“It feels great that we were able, as a team, us and Somerville, along with the other troopers, able to get him in custody without any violence,” said trooper Merrick.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said the community was tense as crews searched for Morales, but that he is thankful for the work done by law enforcement.

The troopers said Morales was reasonably cooperative once he was put in the patrol car.

Former Army reservist Morales, 35, escaped from the Wyatt Detention Facility on New Year’s Eve. The warden said Morales climbed a basketball hoop, jumped to a rooftop and then scaled the barbed wire fence and cut it using a makeshift tool. He then walked away from the facility.

The facility says it is investigating how the convict managed to escape.

Officials say Morales allegedly stole a car in Attleborough, fled to Framingham, and made his way to Cambridge where he attempted to rob at least one bank in Central Square. Investigators said they are unsure how he traveled from Framingham to Cambridge.

Morales is due in federal court in Rhode Island on Friday.

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