Jefferson County

'Dangerous' Deer Ridge escapee seen in Mill City

Several witnesses in past day in town where he lived

MILL CITY, Ore. - The manhunt for a Linn County man who scaled a fence and escaped from Deer Ridge state prison near Madras five days ago shifted to the escapee's hometown Friday after several Mill City residents reported seeing him in the area, authorities said.

"Several witnesses in the Mill City area have reported seeing escaped inmate Clinton Orvill Swearingen II in the last 24 hours," the Oregon Department of Corrections reported Friday morning.

One resident reported seeing Swearingen driving a small red truck around 4 a.m.

"Law enforcement is scouring the area and asking that people be on the lookout for any suspicious activity," the department added in its brief Friday morning update.

And in an early Friday afternoon update, officials said. "Law enforcement is asking the public to be extremely cautious if you encounter this suspect. He is considered armed and dangerous to himself and others."

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Betty Bernt said that advice resulted from information the department gained "through interviews with confidential informants. "

Swearingen injured himself and was bleeding after climbing over the razor wire topping the perimeter fence at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution east of Madras late Sunday night, the first escape from the minimum-security facility since it opened in the fall of 2007.

DRCI staff found Swearingen missing during Sunday's 10:15 p.m. count, officials said. Security video shows he climbed the fence around 9:20 p.m.

He's then believed to have stolen a 1985 Chevy Blazer from a nearby resident, abandoning it in downtown Madras. The resulting manhunt led to two lockdowns of St. Charles Madras hospital on Monday and a "shelter in place" for several hours at three nearby schools.

Swearingen's bloody prison clothes were found in a vacant lot, not far from where the Blazer was ditched, officials said. Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins later said it was growing increasingly likely Swearingen had left the Madras area.

Swearingen was arrested late last year while living in Mill City, a town of about 1,900 along the North Santiam River. It is downstream from Detroit Lake along state Highway 22, the main route between Central Oregon and Salem, and straddles the Linn-Marion County line

Published accounts indicate Swearingen was arrested last December on charges ranging from burglary and tampering with drug records to assaulting a public safety officer and methamphetamine possession, as well as felon in possession of a restricted weapon. He also had warrants for failing to appear in court on earlier charges, authorities said.

A Linn County deputy came across Swearingen, who had several outstanding warrants, and tried to arrest him. but the two struggled and he broke free, according to a police log entry in the Albany Democrat-Herald.

Swearingen ran and broke into a vacant duplex unit. A Marion County police dog tracked Swearingen and bit him on the leg as he was taken into custody, the newspaper reported.

Swearingen entered Department of Corrections custody three months ago, on Feb. 4, on one count of first-degree theft, two counts of second-degree burglary and two counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle out of Linn County. His earliest release date was scheduled to be Dec. 10, 2017.

Anyone with information regarding Swearingen's whereabouts was asked to call Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888.

Several Deer Ridge prison neighbors expressed concern this week that an emergency notification system did not advise them of the escape, as promised when the prison opened. Instead, deputies went door to door over a period of several hours to inform them.

The state said the system had failed and its vendor was out of business. They promised a fix, and a review of security protocols.

We'll have updates through the day as we get them on KTVZ.COM and a full report tonight on NewsChannel 22 at Five and Six.

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