Escaped felon captured in Le Grand

An escaped felon was captured Friday in Le Grand, a day after he fled from the John Latorraca Correctional Center near El Nido.

David O’Neal Coleman Jr. was found hiding under a house in the 600 block of Santa Fe Drive, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department reported.

Coleman, 40, threw dirt and rocks at deputies and tried to run away, but was quickly captured, Capt. B.J. Jones said Friday.

The sheriff’s Supervised Release Team captured Coleman and on Friday was still looking for anyone who may have helped him escape and get to Le Grand. Jones praised the unit’s “diligent and exhaustive efforts” in capturing Coleman, described by deputies as a “dangerous felon.”

Coleman was discovered missing around 4:45 a.m. Thursday during a routine head count at the correctional center, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

Coleman has known ties to a white supremacist group, the Sheriff’s Department said.

He previously escaped from a Merced County jail in 1992 and was ordered to serve 16 months in prison after he was arrested, according to Merced Superior Court records.

Coleman has 22 convictions in Merced County dating back to the early 1990s. His convictions include 10 violent offenses, mostly involving domestic violence. His other convictions in Merced County range from battery and weapons violations to burglary and drug offenses, court records show.

Coleman was most recently arrested March 6 on suspicion of vehicle theft and drug possession, according to Merced County jail records.

He has six cases pending in Merced County for drug, weapons and theft-related charges, according to court records. He was scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing and trial-setting a few hours before he escaped Thursday.

According to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, if Coleman is convicted on all charges and enhancements, he could face a maximum prison sentence of nearly 34 years.

The John Latorraca Correctional Center has been plagued with numerous escapes in recent years, including at least five within the last year.

The Sheriff’s Department has said officials are exploring ways to harden the facility and improve security to prevent future escapes.

Reporter Rob Parsons can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or