2 Arizona fugitives captured 5 days after prison escape

Jan 28, 2021, 10:21 AM | Updated: 3:19 pm
John Charpiot, left, and David Harmon. (Facebook Photos/Coolidge Police Department)...
John Charpiot, left, and David Harmon. (Facebook Photos/Coolidge Police Department)
(Facebook Photos/Coolidge Police Department)

PHOENIX – The two inmates who escaped from a central Arizona state prison over the weekend were apprehended Thursday morning in a Coolidge farm field, ending an intensive 110-hour manhunt less than 15 miles from where it started, authorities said.

The Coolidge Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service deputies took David Harmon and John Charpiot into custody around 9 a.m. after several citizens called in tips. The felons broke out of a medium-security unit at the Florence state prison on Saturday night.

Representatives from the Arizona Department of Public Safety; Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry; U.S. Marshals; Pinal County Sheriff’s Office; and the Florence and Coolidge police departments provided details about the successful manhunt during an afternoon press conference.

Body-worn camera footage of the arrest was played during the briefing.

Cmdr. Mark Tercero, a Coolidge police spokesman, said several deputy marshals were at the police station to help serve a warrant on an unrelated case when a call came in from a man who’d said he spotted the fugitives.

Police and the deputies responded to the scene and saw the two men in a field. They surrounded the field and closed in on the men, who ignored commands and tried to avoid capture, Tercero said.

U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said the inmates asked the officers to kill them.

“Both of them said, ‘Just shoot me,’” Gonzales said.

Officers used Tasers to subdue the fugitives. One of the inmates had blood on his face in one of several photos released by the police department after the captures, and both were still wearing inmate clothing.

Authorities offered rewards of $35,000 each for information leading to their arrest. DPS Director Col. Heston Silbert said officials were looking into details of when the tips came in to determine how to distribute the reward money.

“During the course of this investigation and attempt to recapture, over 800 houses were searched in a period of 16 hours,” Silbert said.

Harmon, who was imprisoned in 2012, was serving a 100-year sentence for kidnapping and second-degree burglary. Charpiot’s 35-year sentence for child molestation and sexual abuse started in 2011.

“When you look at the record of both of these subjects, one of them is a home-invasion rapist, while the other is a molester of children ranging in ages 7 to 4 years old,” Silbert said. “These were bad people we wanted to get off the street.”

Before escaping, Harmon and Charpiot were last accounted for at 4 p.m. Saturday. They were gone by the 8:30 p.m. count.

The men broke into a tool shed by knocking down an air conditioning unit and breaking through a wall, according to authorities. They were able to obtain a bolt cutter, wire snips and other items and used them to cut a fence.

Authorities looking for the inmates earlier conducted door-to-door searches of homes in the area of the Florence prison. The inmates are accused of trying to rob a Florence motel Saturday night before running off when a clerk screamed for help.

“Arizona residents are breathing easier this afternoon with the capture of two hardened criminals who escaped from the state prison in Florence. … Since their escape on Saturday evening, the people of my district have been living in fear, especially knowing that witnesses reported the men were still in the area, committing more crimes,” state Sen. T.J. Shope said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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