A major manhunt is underway on the West and East Coasts of the United States after two murder suspects were mistakenly released by the police.
Steven Manzo, 24, and Christopher Buggs, 26, remain at large after they were freed in what was described as a data entry mistakes allowing their release from jail, police said on Wednesday.
Jail records of Manzo show that his murder case was incorrectly logged as dismissed. He was arrested a year ago — March 5, 2020 — over the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man.
Manzo was being held on $2 million bail and had been in court for a hearing in Los Angeles on Monday. Apparently, there was a change to his record related to that hearing that allowed him to walk free.
Local media reported that about half an hour after Manzo left the jail, a man matching his description and wearing jail inmate’s clothing was seen running across Highway 101 near Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
For about half an hour both directions of the freeway were closed as sheriff’s deputies searched for the suspect. The deputies “set up a containment perimeter but they were not able to take him into custody,” the Long Beach police said.
On the US East Coast, Buggs was released from the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island, according to the New York City Department of Correction.
It was unclear how this mistake occurred and the agency had launched an investigation about it.
"We are aware of this incident and a full investigation into how this happened is underway," Peter Thorne, the agency's deputy commissioner of public information, told US media, adding, "Right now we are working with our law enforcement partners to return this individual to custody."
Police said Buggs is suspected of fatally shooting a 55-year-old man outside a deli in February 2018. Buggs was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm. He was scheduled for his next court hearing in June.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "We have a high level of confidence that he will be re-apprehended shortly." He said mistakes like this were "very frustrating", giving assurance that it would not be repeated. "We're going to put additional safeguards in place to make sure this never happens again."