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April 07, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Atherton man in custody walks out on police; captured later Atherton man in custody walks out on police; captured later (April 07, 2004)

By Jonas Raab
Special to the Almanac

An Atherton man escaped from police custody on March 28 when he walked out of an interview room at the Menlo Park police station after he was arrested on charges of attempted murder.

The charges stemmed from an incident during which he allegedly hit another man over the head with a bottle.

Noe Hernandez, 24, who was caught two hours after his escape when he returned to his home, was able to sneak out of the station during a break in the interview, when the officer who was interviewing him left the room briefly, according to police Cmdr. Greg Rothaus, who is in charge of an internal investigation.

"What did happen shouldn't have happened," Cmdr. Rothaus said. "We have a responsibility when we take someone into custody to maintain that custody, and that didn't happen. We are going to figure out what did happen and it is not going to happen again."

Mr. Hernandez was not handcuffed and the door to the room was not locked at the time he made his getaway.

"The officer could easily see the door [to the interview room] from where he was; he just had his back turned," Cmdr. Rothaus said.

When asked about direct policies that may have been overlooked, allowing the suspect to walk away, Cmdr. Rothaus said, "It is better to wait until we finish the investigation before we comment on that. Not everything we do is dictated by policy."

Mr. Hernandez was originally arrested when he allegedly assaulted another man at a party in the 1300 block of Hollyburne Avenue, according to the police department. The victim underwent emergency surgery at Stanford Hospital; as of March 29, he was expected to recover from his injuries, police said.

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