By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

An inmate walked away yesterday from a minimum security area of Pelican Bay State Prison and was still at large as of Monday afternoon.

Ruben James Puga, 22, was serving time for first-degree robbery, according to the prison community resources manager Janet Kasbohm.

We are asking that if any citizen out there observes him that they not approach him, but to contact any law enforcement agency, Kasbohm said.

Puga is described as a white male, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 190 pounds, brown hair, green eyes and a fair complexion.

The prison assigns minimum security inmates with two sets of clothing; blue jeans and a blue chambray shirt, and a gray sweatshirt and gray sweatpants. Kasbohm said Puga may be wearing some combination of these outfits.

Puga was present during a 4:30 a.m. headcount on Monday and was confirmed absent at 12:20 p.m.

Puga is originally from Sacramento County and was convicted last November of first-degree robbery. He was sentenced to four years and his release date was June 5, 2004. Kasbohm said no weapon was used in his crime which is why Puga was classified as a level-one, or minimum security, prisoner.

The nature of the offense with these inmates is at the lowest level of custody, Kasbohm said. The level-one area (at the prison) is outside the secured perimeter near the administration building. There is a fence around that facility but certainly not the level of security as the rest of the prison.

Most prisoners at Pelican Bay are level-four inmates and are held deep inside several layers of security fences and walls.

Level-one inmates are sometimes eligible for inclusion with crews that do work outside the prison. This was not the case with Puga.

He was not a work crew inmate. He had an assignment with the prison industry authority to work in our optical lab, Kasbohm said.

The Del Norte County School District took precautions yesterday when it received word of the escapee.

We were contacting parents and made arrangements so no one was walking home, said the school district communication specialist Todd Wels. We wanted to make sure the kids were transported home safely.

Superintendent Walt Hanline said only the Redwood School was considered to be in a high risk zone for the prison.

Generally there is a procedure to lock down the Redwood School because it has the closest proximity whenever a prisoner has a deviation from procedure, Hanline said.

Hanline said he informed local radio stations and parents to let them know children would not be walking home from school in that area.

We have to make a determination if the person is a risk before locking down other schools. In this case because the prisoner was a level-one security inmate, we made no formal alerts to the other schools, said Hanline.