5Due to the continued search for a Santee man in the Niobrara State Park area, several Knox County schools will have a late start Wednesday morning.
Niobrara, Santee and Verdigre schools will all start at 10 a.m. to allow students and staff to travel in the daylight.
Dozens of law enforcement are searching for David Hoffman, who escaped from police custody earlier today and is believed to be armed but wearing only jeans and a black sweatshirt.
The Nebraska Department of Roads maintenance building is serving as command center for the Nebraska State Patrol. Law enforcement officers are heavily armed and utilizing dogs. They spent the Tuesday walking the old Niobrara River bottom on the north side of the highway between Niobrara and the state park.
Hoffman is believed to be on the run after escaping from police custody in Niobrara earlier today. According to officials, Hoffman was being transported as a prisoner around 2 p.m. when he was able to take a deputy sheriff's gun and flee on foot.
The Niobrara community was then put on lockdown, which remains in effect yet this evening. The less than 400-population community resembles a ghost town, and even the gas station has a sign posted informing motorists it is closed due to a lockdown.
"They just told me it was the Knox County Sheriff's Department calling, and we were to go into lockdown right away and pull all of the keys from the cars outside," said Vicky Marshall, who works at Moody Motors in Niobrara, located just east of the NDOR building. "It kind of scared me, it startled me to hear something in a small town like that."
According to Knox County Court records, Hoffman was wanted for felony burglary and theft by receiving stolen property after Niobrara police said he burglarized Terry's Hair Salon in Niobrara on December 19 and made off with $750 in cash and merchandise.
According to investigative reports from several law enforcement agencies, police believe that Hoffman sold some black gold jewelry to a local woman whose mother knew that the merchandise had been stolen from the the Hair Salon.
News Channel Nebraska contributed to this report.