Aug. 3—The Santa Fe County jail mistakenly released an inmate held on burglary charges, prompting a sheriff's office search Tuesday night that continued Wednesday as 35-year-old Jarrod Bearden evaded deputies, sometimes by a matter of minutes, Sheriff Adan Mendoza said.
Juan Ríos, a spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, said the agency believes Bearden used another inmate's identification to trick jail staff into letting him go.
It took jail officials about 45 minutes to realize the error — giving Bearden a head start on law enforcement, Mendoza said.
Warden Derek Williams confirmed the mistake in an email sent by county spokeswoman Sara Smith. He attributed Bearden's release to "human error."
"The failure to follow established protocols ... appears to have allowed this misrepresentation to go undetected and resulted in erroneous release," Williams wrote in the email.
According to his statement, the last time a mistaken release occurred at the jail was in April 2017. Officials are conducting a review on Bearden's escape, he added, and looking into ways to prevent future occurrences — which could include retinal scanning and electronic fingerprint technology.
It was unclear whether an increased staffing vacancy rate contributed to Bearden's mistaken release. Records show the jail has been struggling with a high vacancy rate for detention officers since last year.
In June, 44 percent of its detention officer jobs were unfilled, according to the county Public Safety Department's monthly report. That compares with a vacancy rate in 2020 that fluctuated but stayed below 20 percent. By April 2021, the rate rose to 22 percent and continued to rise gradually to 39 percent in September and a high of 49 percent in January.
The sheriff's office began its search for Bearden near the jail before expanding to residences in the Santa Fe area associated with him, Mendoza said.
Deputies spoke with people at some of the homes who said they had recently seen Bearden.
"We were pretty much hot on his trail," Mendoza said.
The sheriff's office put out an alert on Bearden to other law enforcement agencies and alerted the community about his escape through a Facebook post, Ríos said.
Bearden previously was convicted of possessing a controlled substance and has faced numerous other charges, including trafficking controlled substances and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.
Claudia Silva of The New Mexican contributed to this report.