The hunt for a 25-year-old Santee man has moved further into the Niobrara State Park area tonight as the weather continues to deteriorate.
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. Temperatures are expected to dip into the low 20s as a wintry mix falls overnight.
Currently, an ambulance and fire truck, along with several Nebraska State Patrol units, are parked near the entrance of the state park. Other patrol units are positioned every one-eighth mile along Highway 12 from a mile west of the park to the edge of Niobrara.
The Nebraska Department of Roads maintenance building is serving as command center for the police operation. Law enforcement officers are heavily armed and utilizing dogs and have spent the afternoon 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.