After three days without food or water and Katrina’s floodwaters rising to his ribs, New Orleans prison inmate David Fernandez he faced a dilemma: Stay put and hope to be rescued, or swim to safety and risk an escape charge. He bolted, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Basically, it was survival,” the 20-year-old fugitive said. “It wasn’t like we wanted to escape. The charges I had wasn’t really about nothing. Why would I want to escape? I escaped for my life.” Awaiting trial on crack and marijuana charges and locked up as a mental health risk, Fernandez told the Times-Picayune that he never intended to go on the lam. But after nearly 72 hours of waiting amid a darkened, flooded jail with hundreds of hungry and panicked inmates, he decided to get out when the opportunity presented itself.
Fernandez was one of 14 inmates named in fugitive arrest warrants when they couldn’t be identified in a head count of the nearly 7,000 evacuated inmates now scattered among 38 state and local lockups. Five of those inmates have since been rearrested. “We can only verify two inmates that eluded custody during or after the evacuation,” said Sheriff Marlin Gusman.