A dog that lives in Rocklin helped catch alleged killer, hostage-taker who escaped police custody

Eric Abril moments after he was finally captured.

In the end, as the SWAT members closed in, it was a neighborhood dog in Rocklin that likely made fugitive Eric Abril know that he was finished.

An alleged ruthless killer and hostage-taker who’d slipped from police custody during a hospital visit, Abril had been on the lam since the dark morning hours of Sunday, July 9.

The escapee made it to the cover darkness the following sundown, which was worrying since law enforcement knew that Abril had previously made it across a lot of ground by night. Officials could see that from Ring home security cameras fixed on houses near Antelope Creek. But after a dramatic, rolling manhunt across South Placer County on Sunday, Sheriff’s officials decided to start Monday morning back a Square 1. They’d be searching the area of Rainier Court where some frames of footage had caught a haggard-looking Abril walking – in orange jail pants and naked to the waist – like some quick, blurred parody of a Big Foot sighting.

“We had well over 60 tips come in yesterday, but as we investigated all those leads, everything led back to the only credible sighting, which was back at Rainer Court,” Placer County Sheriff Wayne Wood said this afternoon. “All signs pointed to that this was truly his location-last-seen. So, for today’s operation, we still believed he could likely still be in that area. We had no other evidence to the contrary.”

The Sheriff’s SWAT team, along with other tactical officers, began surrounding the greenbelt throughout that section of Antelope Creek. Slowly they made their way through the thicket, clearing brushy hiding spots as they went.

According to Woo, as their operation “pushed toward Zion Court,” a Rocklin resident was letting his dog out in the area – and the canine started barking up a storm in a very specific direction.

“The dog started barking, he saw somebody moving in that greenbelt area,” Wood explained, “and, in fact, it was Abril. Law enforcement in the area descended quickly … When he was taken into custody, he was clothed only in his jail boxers and he still had his belly-chains around his waist, although his hands were no longer affixed in the handcuffs.”

How did such a dangerous man escape?

After being caught, Abril was taken right back to the same hospital that he’d just broke out of.

“He’s currently being watched by six SWAT members,” Woo stressed. “Once he’s medically cleared, he’ll be housed at the South Placer Jail.”

Abril had first gotten away from Sutter Roseville around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. Woo acknowledged that there is a full investigation underway into how that happened, though a few things have become clear.

“We have learned some information over the last 24 hours,” the Sheriff told reporters. “Abril was able to defeat some of his restraints.”

Woo also said of the single deputy that was assigned to be watching Abril at the hospital, “There are parallel investigations, but this deputy does have due process rights as well, and he hasn’t even been interviewed, so I would hate to speculate on what this deputy’s actions were, or were not.”

That deputy did, at some point, realize that Abril was escaping and chased him into the hospital’s parking lot. At that point, the accused murderer lost him.

“Why hasn’t [the deputy] been interviewed yet?” a TV reporter asked.

“He’s been noticed to be interviewed and an interview will be conducted when we can coordinate it,” Woo replied.

Pressed by more journalists, the Sheriff soon revealed another facet of the escape.

“The procedures for the amount of guards depends on the inmates classification status,” Woo remarked. “When Abril first came into custody [in April] he was classified as a two-officer move. I can say that sometime during the month of May, our classification unit down-graded him to a one-officer move, and that will be part of this entire review.”

Abril was initially booked into the jail on April 6 on charges of murdering a man he didn’t know, trying to murder that man’s wife, attempting to kill numerous CHP officers and members of Roseville police, and kidnapping civilians in a park to use as hostages.

The frantic first hours of the search

A helicopter swooped overhead as Roseville police officers and Placer Sheriff’s deputies moved along the edge of a thick riparian camouflage zone Sunday morning.

Just up the way, law enforcement was stopping anyone who drove in or out of Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

The hunt was on for Abril. Officers knew he was free somewhere in the wilds of a densely wooded and densely populated neighborhood of South Placer County.

Abril first hit the public’s radar on April 6, when a special team of CHP officers who’d been tracking him over a serious investigation decide to attempt an arrest in Roseville’s Mahany Park. As Abril was approached, he reportedly drew a pistol and shot one of the members of state law enforcement. Then, Abril allegedly grabbed a husband and wife who were taking a stroll through the park to use as hostages. At one point, as a gun battle ensued, Abril allegedly executed one of the people he’d grabbed, a local named James MacEgan.

Abril eventually surrendered after Roseville police officers joined the gun fight.

He’s since been in custody on a litany of charges.

In the hours after the break-out, Sheriff Woo announced that Abril was brought to Sutter Roseville Medical Center, by ambulance, on Thursday after complaining of a medical condition. Around 3 a.m. on Sunday, he managed to escape out into the brushy thickets along an arm of Dry Creek near the hospital and Secret Ravine Road.

By late morning, officers and deputies were combing the broad oak woodlands between the hospital and Golf Land Sun Splash, and the Marriot’s Fairfield Inn. As checkout time rolled around for the Marriot’s guests, it was unclear if those casually strolling out to their cars fully understood that a manhunt was underway in the creekside next to the parking lot – a manhunt for an individual with a history of using human shields.

A Sheriff’s armored SWAT vehicle is parked next to the Marriot’s Fairfield Inn in Roseville as a manhunt continues. Photo by Scott Thomas Anderson

The area between the hotel and the hospital is a messy tangle of black oaks, berry batches and tall creek plants. Numerous officers and deputies were posted-up on different road-bridges, as well as spots like the Sun Splash corner and the parking lot of Cattlemen’s steakhouse. At one point, Sheriff’s deputies searched the weedy overgrowth in front of Cattlemen’s on foot.

CHP staggered patrol cruisers with lights on all along eastbound Interstate-80 from the Taylor Road onramp to Sierra College Boulevard in Rocklin.

Abril is six-feet-tall, has brown hair and weighs 175 pounds.

Eric Abril.

By 11:15, rumors swirling that Abril was heading away from the hospital and towards the area of Highway 65 caused a number of locals to feel secure enough to start recreating around the creekside.

At 1:20 p.m., a Sheriff’s helicopter began circle neighborhoods in Rocklin near Sierra College, talking to the people below on a loudspeaker, advising them that a dangerous fugitive had escaped, describing what he looked like, and then imploring anyone who may have seen him to call 911. Soon, Sheriff’s officials announced via Twitter that roughly 40 minutes after Abril had first broke out, video surveillance had caught him walking, first near Rainier Court in Rocklin, and then, a few minutes later, by Saddletree Lane in Rocklin.

A little before 7 p.m., a massive deployment of law enforcement converged on the edge of Granite Bay and East Roseville and began surrounding parts of the Stoneridge East Village neighborhood. Officers scrambled up the steep hillside above Sierra College Boulevard, taking different positions along the fence-line with rifles while SWAT operators moved into the greenway below the bluff. However, by 7:50 p.m., most personnel with badges were pulling out of the area altogether.

At 12:20 p.m. on Monday, that operation took place on Reiner Court in Rocklin, bringing the saga to a close.

This story will be updated as more information is known.

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