Southern California authorities mistakenly released a murder suspect from official custody and remained at large on Wednesday as two law enforcement agencies continued to blame each other for the incident.
The suspect, 23-year-old Steven Manzo, was believed to be responsible for the fatal shooting of a Long Beach resident in 2018. Authorities arrested the individual last year and had locked him up since then.
Authorities released Manzo from custody on Tuesday afternoon, prompting an extensive manhunt that last for more than 24 hours. Officials also shut down a major downtown Los Angeles freeway at rush hour. As of the moment, the circumstances that led to the suspect’s release remain unclear.
The sheriff’s department said deputies received an “order for release” from the court, meaning the case was dismissed. “As such, the Department complied with the court order and processed the individual for release,” the department said in a statement, adding the media should question Long Beach Police or the District Attorney’s office.
However, the DA’s office said the prosecutor of Manzo’s case on Tuesday “became aware that the defendant had been released from custody and alerted law enforcement.”
Authorities said the suspect was supposed to have been in the Long Beach court on Monday for a preliminary hearing of his case. However, the DA’s office said the sheriff’s department failed to transport Manzo from the jail to the court.
The prosecutor asked Manzo’s case to be dismissed and immediately refiled with the same charges so his hearing could be rescheduled. This was due to the other defendants were not willing to postpone the hearing.
The suspect’s new arraignment had him held without bail and rescheduled for a March 23 court appearance. The DA’s office said the case’s other defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges, the Associated Press reported.
Jail records only showed the dismissal and consequent release of Manzo despite court records showing refiled charges on his new case. “The Court takes this matter extremely seriously and is thoroughly reviewing the situation,” a statement by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County said on Wednesday.