Back in custody, escapee charged with 3-year-old’s murder returns to court tomorrow

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, CALIF. (KGET) — The car chase that led to Tyrone Johnson, 24, landing back in custody started with police keeping an eye on a home in East Bakersfield.

“Officers were conducting surveillance of a residence associated with Mr. Johnson,” said Bakersfield Police Sergeant Robert Pair. “They observed a subject leaving the residence and entering the vehicle.”

Pair said based on the man’s physical appearance, officers believed it was likely to be Johnson and tried to pull him over. But Johnson, behind the wheel, allegedly led police on a chase down River Boulevard before hitting a parked car at Bernard Street, an intersection cornered by Jefferson Park. According to BPD, Johnson and 23-year-old Bruce Davis were both arrested after trying to escape on foot, and a loaded gun was found in the car.

That ended a 55-day manhunt for Johnson, who is accused of killing 3-year-old Major Sutton at an apartment on Pershing Street. In 2017, he and co-defendant David Palms allegedly opened fire in the child’s home, killing him and wounding his mother and brother.

Pair said so far no one else has been arrested or charged with helping Johnson, but the investigation is ongoing.

“That’s something that we’re looking at, and are very aware of,” said Pair.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office had worked to recapture Johnson after his escape from jail, with BPD and the US Marshals involved in tracking Johnson down. Youngblood said it was hard to “accept” the escape, especially after it had taken months to catch Johnson and Palms after Major Sutton’s murder.

“Children touch our hearts, and this was such a catastrophic event, not just for us but the community as well, this was a young child that lost his life, that had done absolutely nothing wrong in this world, and did not deserve this,” said Youngblood.

In the April 18 jailbreak, court documents say Palms and Johnson breached the ceiling of their cell, made their way to the roof, and got to the ground using a nearby flag pole. A “silent” count of sleeping inmates was defeated by dummies left in their bunk beds to trick guards into thinking the two were still in the cell. Youngblood described the incident as “embarrassing.”

“It made me angry,” said Youngblood. “And it made staff angry.”

Youngblood said the pole was moved to a new location, further from the roof. In a review of the facility’s potential flaws, Youngblood said builders were “surprised” that the inmates managed to cut through the steel of the cell. The sheriff also questioned why they had access to certain items found in the cell, why their cell wasn’t searched more often, and why they were even held together despite a past escape attempt.

“The truth is, had we done our jobs, and done it correctly, they could have been in a cardboard box and they wouldn’t have gotten away,” said Youngblood. The Sheriff said there are “consequences” for people who don’t do their jobs, but could not give further detail to protect employee’s privacy.

Along with the investigative work, BPD and Youngblood said agencies received tips from the community on Johnson’s activities after the escape.

“We rely in large part upon community interaction to provide us with information,” said Pair. “Investigators left no stone unturned in their efforts to locate Mr. Johnson, and good police work by both our allied agencies and our investigators led to his apprehension.”

Johnson and Davis are both slated to appear tomorrow in court for their new charges related to the pursuit, and in Johnson’s case, the jailbreak. For Major Sutton’s murder, Johnson and Palms have a readiness hearing scheduled for July 16.

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