Westmoreland Mall evacuated while police searched for Ohio jail escapee
The Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield was evacuated Sunday afternoon for two hours as state police searched for a man who escaped from an Ohio jail.
Troopers believe Christopher M. Clemente, 24, was in the area of the mall about 11 a.m. He and three other inmates escaped from the Gallia County Jail early Sunday, according to the Gallia County sheriff.
Shoppers and workers inside said a fire alarm sounded about 12:45 p.m.
Several shoppers remained outside the food court entrance for a couple of hours as state police and a Westmoreland County Park Police officer blocked the entrance.
Mall employees and shoppers were allowed to begin returning to stores about 2:45 p.m.
The four inmates overpowered two female corrections officers at the Gallia County Jail at 12:14 a.m., according to the sheriff there. The inmates had help from at least one person on the outside, authorities said.
The escaped inmates should be considered dangerous. It was unclear whether the other three inmates were in the Westmoreland Mall area.
In a tweet Sunday afternoon, state police said Clemente was seen on a surveillance camera the Westmoreland Mall about 11 a.m. and on a camera at the Sheetz along Route 22 at Route 981 in New Alexandria earlier that morning.
“We have no reason to believe he is in that area (now),” state police tweeted Sunday night.
He had been driving a gray 2019 Dodge Charger with Ohio license plate HVP-8419.
Greensburg Salem School District issued a two hour delay Monday morning because, “The fugitive has not been apprehended and may still be in the area,” according to a post on their Facebook page.
“For the safety and security of our students and staff, school will be delayed for two hours tomorrow while the search for the fugitive continues,” the post reads. “Our local police departments and the State Police have been working together on the search and have kept the school district updated. I will provide additional updates in the morning.”
Ryan Gray, 16, of Belle Vernon was shopping with a friend Sunday afternoon at the mall when they were told to leave as the fire alarm went off.
“Whenever people were going out, it was really calm. No one seemed to be upset,” Gray said. “The workers didn’t know what was happening.”
Also waiting outside were workers from JCPenney and Chuck E. Cheese’s.
A helicopter circled above the mall for a time. Stores surrounding the mall, including TJ Maxx and Fine Wine and Good Spirits, also were evacuated.
An announcement over a loudspeaker in TJ Maxx told shoppers that mall security asked that the store be evacuated.