A convicted child molester who was supposedly confined to a wheelchair overpowered two prison guards today, handcuffed them, stole their weapons and walked off wearing one of their uniforms.
Arcade Joseph Comeaux Jr., 49, is serving a life sentence for several charges – including indecency with a child – and was en route from the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, Texas, to the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, Texas, when he escaped just after 9 a.m.
Michelle Lyons, the director of public information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told ABCNews.com that Comeaux took the two transport officers hostage with a "firearm" of his own, somehow using it to "force the driver to stop the vehicle."
The escapee then took the officers' weapons, handcuffed them together in the back of the van they had been driving and fled on foot, according to Lyons.
He left his own weapon behind, but took the officers' weapons with him - a 12-gauge shotgun and two semiautomatic pistols, said Lyons.
The officers were found shortly after unharmed.
Comeaux is believed to be wearing a grey correctional officers' uniform and black boots that he took from one of the officers. He also has both the officers' firearms in his possession, said Lyons, who encouraged anyone who sees him to call police because Comeaux is considered to be dangerous.
Lyons said that Comeaux used a wheelchair in prison – he "claimed it was necessary for his mobility" – and added, "Since he fled on foot, that's obviously in question."
The van in which Comeaux and the two officers were in had a metal screen dividing them, but Lyons did not elaborate on how the escapee might have overcome the barrier.
She would also not comment on why Comeaux was being moved from one prison to another.
Described as a 6-feet tall and weighing approximately 200 pounds, Lyons warned that Comeaux knows the area where he escaped well and could have family nearby.
"Beyond the crimes for which he was serving, certainly an escape is a desperate act," Lyons told ABC's Texas affiliate KTRK. "It should certainly be assumed that he is going to do whatever he can to avoid being taken back into custody."
According to Lyons, the escapee has been in and out of the Texas prison system for the last 30 years. He initially was imprisoned on February 1979 on three 10-year sentences for rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child, and burglary of a building with the intent to commit theft. He was later released on mandatory supervision in August 1983.
His supervision was revoked and he returned to prison in May 1984 with a new charge of indecency with a child, given a new 20 year sentence.
He was later released on mandatory supervision in June 1991.
Between 1991 and 1998, Comeaux was in and out of prison on parole violations until he finally returned to prison in June 1999 to serve a life sentence for aggravated sexual assault. He has been incarcerated since.
In 1999, Comeaux stabbed his wife during a visit, using his wheelchair to pin her against a wall while he stabbed her. His wife survived, but another inmate who tried to break up the attack also suffered stab wounds, and Comeaux was convicted of additional assault charges and received two additional life sentences.
Lyons said that prison officials will conduct an investigations to determine, among other details, how Comeaux was able to obtain a firearm while in custody.