BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Following a brazen jail escape, Tyrone Johnson made his way to a Shafter neighborhood and snuck into a house, authorities say.
Johnson, charged with murder in the shooting death of 3-year-old Major Sutton, allegedly grabbed food out of the fridge, removed clothes from the laundry room and loaded a backpack with a Chromebook and alcohol, according to sheriff’s reports.
The homeowner’s son had fallen asleep on the couch the night before with his red iPhone by his side. Awaking about 6:20 a.m., he immediately noticed the phone was missing.
Then he saw a man running through the backyard.
He woke his father, who confronted Johnson as he tried to steal a car, according to the reports. A brief struggle ensued during which the father recovered the backpack before Johnson jumped a fence and escaped, the reports say.
The harrowing experience has left the family shaken — and seeking compensation.
The family has brought a legal claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, against the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. The claim alleges Sheriff Donny Youngblood and jail staff were negligent in their operation of the Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility and are responsible for the April escape of Johnson and co-defendant David Palms.
The father received scrapes and cuts during the altercation, and both he and the son are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and are seeing therapists, the claim says.
“The (son) has now begun experiencing PTSD and has had difficulty sleeping and going to school as he lives in fear that the escaped inmate will come back into their residence and attack him like the inmate attacked the claimant’s father,” the claim says.
An amount isn’t stated in the claim filed Oct. 27 by Fresno attorney Mark Castro, only that it’s for more than $25,000.
Youngblood has said Johnson and Palms previously tried to escape from a different facility. For some reason, they remained cellmates.
The sheriff told 17 News in May that staff, department protocol and the facility itself were being reviewed.
“This is something that should not have happened,” Youngblood told 17 News in May.
The county has 45 days to respond. If the claim is rejected, a lawsuit can be filed.
Johnson, 24, and Palms, 23, are each charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and other offenses in the Nov. 10, 2017, shooting that killed Major and wounded his pregnant mother and young brother.
The shooting is believed to be gang-related. Palms and Johnson are members of the East Side Crips street gang, and Major’s mother was living with a rival gang member.
Charges related to the escape were filed when the men were recaptured.
Both cases are set for hearings Tuesday in Kern County Superior Court.
According to court documents, Palms and Johnson escaped in the early hours of April 28 through a hole in the ceiling. Metal had been cut and pulled down, leading to a crawl space and air ducts. Rope and torn clothing were found in the crawl space.
Jail staff reported hearings noises on the roof but thought they were caused by a cat or raccoon, the documents said.
About an hour later, a review of surveillance footage showed two men dressed only in white boxer shorts and shoes scamper across the Justice Facility main entrance roof and slide down flag poles, the reports said.
Staff locked down the facility and performed an emergency head count. When they got to the cell housing Palms and Johnson, they saw what appeared to be an inmate in the top bunk and another in the bottom bunk, covered with blankets. But no one responded to deputies’ commands.
The bunks contained bags of liquid placed so they imitated a torso, with newspapers and toilet paper rolled up to simulate a head, according to the documents. Socks tucked into shoes had been placed near the bottom of the bunks to complete the effect.
Palms was recaptured hours later at a Dollar General store on Lerdo Highway near Highway 43.
Johnson remained on the lam for nearly two months. He was taken into custody following a vehicle chase in Bakersfield.